During the summer of 2020, I was approached by Liz at Manchester City of Sanctuary and asked if I would be interested in teaching a weekly online yoga class with a group of women seeking sanctuary. I teach from a trauma-informed perspective, inviting students to practice in ways that feel safe and intuitive for their bodies, and I felt the opportunity to teach this particular class could resonate with the group.
Initially intended as a six-week programme, the classes are still continuing to this day. As a group, we have only ever met and practiced together online. In many ways this has been a challenging experience as both a teacher and student. It has taught me a great deal about my style of communication and the language I use, as well as how to make the practice of yoga truly inclusive.
In a lot of mainstream yoga, there is a significant emphasis placed on the individual asanas (postures): what they ‘ought’ to look like and how to work towards accomplishing a particular asana, for example. This emphasis can make the practice of yoga off putting to a lot of people, myself included, and is a distraction from what I understand the practice of yoga to be: an opportunity to become curious about what our individual bodies want to tell us as we breathe and move.
Our classes together were primarily a way of inviting the women to become curious: to notice the movement of their breath, to notice how it feels to move the body in a particular way and perhaps how it feels to do both of those things at the same time. What I loved most is when a student moved out of a particular posture that we were practicing into an entirely different form of movement, perhaps shaking their arms or their legs. That is when I sense that people are allowing the practice of yoga to become theirs.
Along the way we have regularly asked the participants for their feedback and it’s been lovely to learn of the positive effects of the practice: improved posture and a reduction in pain, better sleep, a more relaxed state and a good feeling from physical exercise. I have equally valued the feedback I have received about how to make the sessions better and it’s this kind of feedback that has helped me to challenge the assumptions I can still make.
Teaching these classes has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me during the pandemic. There has been something profound about showing up every week to each other, greeting each other wherever we are in ourselves, and practicing together. It is an experience for which I am glad and grateful.
Amy Merone works for the Boaz Trust and is also a self-employed yoga teacher. Trauma-informed in focus, she teaches yoga for adults with learning disabilities and special needs, yoga for anxiety and depression, and yoga for people living with cancer. To learn more about her work and offerings, visit: www.amymeroneyoga.co.uk.