The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Campus Rec hosts trauma-informed yoga class for sexual assault awareness month

4 min read

A yoga mat in Campus Recreation's yoga studio. | Abbey Magnet, The Weekly Ringer


Life Editor

I usually hate yoga. Two years ago, there was this month-long period when my attempt to integrate yoga into my morning routine was consistently correlated with me receiving bad news, and it turns out that I’d rather be a little stiff than be riddled with constant misfortunes.

After my weird past experiences with yoga, I had no intention of bringing it back into my life. However, when I saw that Campus Rec was hosting a trauma-informed yoga class in light of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I was instantly intrigued and decided to give yoga another chance. The class, hosted by Campus Rec in conjunction with UMW’s Talley Center and Center for Prevention and Education, taught me to trust my own limits and that it’s okay to take up space.

As I walked into the gym, I tried to push away all expectations that I previously had, and I pushed myself to embrace the experience and really let myself take everything in. I walked back toward the dance studio where I saw Becca Childress, an Army veteran and yoga instructor at Dragonfly Yoga Studio in downtown Fredericksburg, who would be instructing the class. 

Naturally, I was the first one to show up to the class—I usually show up 15 minutes before everything. I grabbed a mat, found an area on the floor and sat down and breathed a little bit in preparation for the class. 

Since suffering a concussion last semester, big groups of people make me a little bit anxious. I had vestibular trauma, which affects anxiety, nervousness and feelings of stress when in groups or closed-off spaces. Having just finished physical therapy, just being there was a big step for me. 

Once more people showed up at noon, the class started. 

To begin, Childress explained the differences between a standard yoga class and a trauma-informed class, which was a great way to shape people’s expectations of the class, especially for those of us who only had experience doing standard yoga. In a trauma-informed class, every movement is a suggestion. Instead of saying, “Next, hold this position for three breaths,” Childress would say, “If comfortable, let’s hold this for three more breaths.” I appreciated this a lot because it took out the feeling of competitiveness and allowed me to take full control of what my body was capable of and maintain autonomy over my actions. 

Once we started getting into a flow, I stopped looking at my watch to keep track of the time. I let myself breathe and stopped paying attention to the people around me. Childress led us through breathing techniques and stretches, all of which were intended to give us different methods of getting through fears or worries in our daily life. She also taught us different breathing techniques that we can use to help when we feel like we’re panicking or anxious. 

When the class ended, I felt more relaxed than I did when I showed up. They had a small lunch catered so we could all grab a sandwich, chips and a drink on our way out of the studio. There were also tables set up outside the studio with pamphlets and information about sexual assault. 

While leaving, I approached Childress to discuss some life goals of mine. I told her about how I want to join the military after I go to law school to help advocate for active duty and veterans who have been sexually assaulted. Since she works with veterans, I felt compelled to talk to her about it, and I’m happy I did. 

Childress validated a lot of the things I was thinking and feeling both during and after the yoga class, but one thing in particular that she mentioned will stick with me for a long time. She explained to the class that we often think that perfect silence and stillness is equivalent to peace; however, at the end of the class, she had me convinced that peace is not the absence of noise and chaos, but rather a stillness within yourself that you wouldn’t have found unless you tried. 

After this class, I’m not writing off yoga anymore. Maybe it will teach me things I never knew about myself, or maybe it will be a way for me to wake up and start my day. Either way, the stillness I found is one that I hope to experience over and over again. 

Anyone seeking resources for sexual assault may turn to UMW’s Health Center, the Talley Center and/or the Center for Prevention and Education.