“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Sarah teaches in the Integrated Mindfulness Certificate at Royal Roads University and Foundations of Applied Mindfulness Meditation Certificate at The University of Toronto. For more information on current offerings please visit the websites and/or contact Sarah.
Integrated Mindfulness Certificate
Royal Roads University
Professional & Continuing Studies
Foundations of Applied Mindfulness Meditation
University of Toronto
School of Continuing Studies
Sarah offers workshops throughout the year at various Yoga studios in Canada. For more information of current offerings please visit the websites and/or contact Sarah. Please contact Sarah directly if you are interesting in Trauma-Informed Yoga Trainings!
Hemma: The Home of Yoga & Acupuncture (Victoria, BC)
Union Yoga + Wellness (Toronto, ON.)
Sarah is a registered Yoga teacher for adults and children (E-RYT 500, RCYT) and enjoys teaching weekly classes and Trauma informed trainings. For more information on the Yoga Alliance registration please click here. The workshops she facilitates can be counted towards Yoga Alliance Continuing Education credits.
She has completed four Yoga Teacher Training courses and has studied with various schools in North America and Asia; such as, Yoga Vidya Gurukul: Institute for Research and Education in Yoga, The Sanada Devi School of Yoga, Yoga in Your School and Yin Yoga with Carly Forest.
Most recently, she has studied Trauma Sensitive Yoga with David Emerson and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Sarah is the author of Yoga Therapy: Ancient Therapy for Today’s Body, Mind and Spirit, a textbook chapter used in counselling programs throughout North America.
Few things in this life brings Sarah as much joy as sharing Yoga with others - those who are stepping on to the mat for the first time and others who have been practicing for decades. She is deeply grateful to her teachers on this path.
Please contact the studios to be added to class list or be put on a waitlist.
Sarah offers Yoga series at Yoga Den in Victoria
Please click here for more information
Sarah offers Yoga series at Hemma in Victoria.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Groups (8-week group sessions)
Sarah has extensive training in Mindfulness-Based Interventions including Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Sarah completed a year-long training in MBCT facilitation at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies and later taught at the centre. Her teachers include Dr. Patricia Rockman (Director of Education at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies), Dr. Zindel Segal (one of the co-developers of MBCT) and Susan Woods (Senior Guiding Teacher at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of California San Diego).
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a clinically proven therapy for working with anxiety and preventing relapses in those who suffer from depression. It combines the practice of mindfulness meditation with the skills of cognitive therapy. Over the eight-week course, students will learn a variety of techniques that can used to develop a new relationship with thoughts, emotions and body sensations. MBCT teaches how to break the patterns of anxiety and depression through practical and adaptable skills that can be used in everyday life. This course is for anyone experiencing moderate anxiety/depression. It is also recommended for people with a history of depression.
Eight Week Course plus an Interview & Orientation session
Each session is 2.5 hours each and allows for ample time for mindfulness-based practices and inquiry.
Session 1: Awareness and Automatic Pilot
Session 2: Living in Our Heads
Session 3: Gathering the Scattered Mind
Session 4: Staying Present
Session 5: Allowing, Letting Be
Session 6: Thoughts Are Not Facts
Session 7: How Can I Best Take Care of Myself?
Session 8: Using What You Have Learned to Deal with Future Moods
Sarah offers Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) groups in Victoria. Please contact her for current offerings. For more information on MBCT please visit the following sites:
Trauma Informed Yoga Article for Union Yoga + Wellness
Becoming my own Nervous System Whisperer
“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”
“I have come to the conclusion that human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma. I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening—a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation.”
Three years ago, my life was about to change, and I had no idea.
I arrived at work fueled by a matcha latte with a new notebook ready to hear what Peter Levine and his crew of teachers had to say about somatic healing. I knew ‘soma’ meant ‘body’ in Greek and as a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Yoga teacher, I was curious to learn how this therapeutic approach could help my clients and students.
Fate would have it that I had just started working for a not-for-profit where all the staff were beginning a three-year training in Somatic Experiencing®. The director felt it was paramount that the team have more tools to support women with histories of Post-Traumatic Stress, Complex Trauma and Intergenerational Trauma related to residential “schools” attended by First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
I vividly remember sitting in the front row soaking up this new found modality when the instructor, Dea Parsanishi declared that over the next three years we were all going to become our own “nervous system whisperers”. She also proclaimed we would not be the same three years down the road. This sounded very promising as an individual and as a therapist who often wondered if the combination of traditional talk therapy and pharmaceutical medication was enough to heal trauma. I worried clients were leaving my office retriggered after sharing their story with yet another professional.
One of the elements I appreciated about this training, unlike my master’s in counselling, was that I was required to attend my own counselling sessions. I was required to look at my own stuff. And, this meant tracking my own nervous system; becoming my own nervous system whisperer. In all my years of formal education in both Western and Eastern traditions nothing has been as profound and life altering as this training.
Three years later, I am one consultation hour away from becoming a SE™ Practitioner (SEP) through Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute (SETI). The instructor was correct, I am not the same person that walked into that room in 2016. My understanding and relationship to my nervous system has changed. I feel more equipped and able to respond to life with its 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows as the Taoists said. I am also able to support my students and clients in a way that I never was able to in the past with education on the role of the nervous system in healing trauma.
Peter Levine, founder of the Somatic Experiencing® studied trauma for decades and came to see the role of the nervous system in how we, as mammals, process trauma. Unless we are aware of the state of the nervous system, in the here and now, we will not be able to fully process and resolve past traumas that may be stored in the body/mind. As the saying goes, “the issues are in the tissues”. The body longs to be included.
During the first module Somatic Experiencing®, I reflected on how similar the concepts were to a Trauma Sensitive Yoga Training I completed with Bessel Van der Kolk and David Emerson through The Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health based on their Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) program. My hope is to marry the two approaches in my upcoming training at Union Yoga + Wellness this fall.
The ancient Yogis and many Indigenous traditions have known the important connection of the mind/body/spirit for a long, long time. In the west, we got a bit of track…little did Descartes know what he started with his line, “I think, therefore I am”, which created a dualistic understanding of our being. We now have research to back up what the wisdom traditions have known all along: the mind and body are not separate. Kipling would be thrilled that the east and the west have finally met! Recently, I had the pleasure of connecting with Eddie Stern, a Yoga teacher who is skillfully braiding together the Yoga sutras and Western studies. He graciously offered his time to our Yoga book club to answer our questions about his new book, One Simple Thing: A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How It Can Transform Your Life. It is work like this that is bridging together the east and west.
The Sanskrit word, Yoga, means to unite, to yoke together all parts of ourselves. Yoga as a treatment for trauma helps us yoke together all the fragmented parts of ourselves thus creating union in the body, mind and spirit. Yoga helps us learn how to fully inhabit the present moment allowing us to truly know the now. These powerful practices teach us how to observe and witness our inner landscape and grow our innate capacity to experience whatever is moving through us. Through practice we come to see as Ani Pema Chodron reminds us, we are the sky not the weather patterns blowing through us. We are more than our past, we are more than our trauma. Trauma-Informed Yoga practices have the potential to help individuals notice the thoughts, emotions and body sensations they are feeling in a safe environment with a trained teacher/therapist. Then individuals can make mindful choices on how to respond to what they are experiencing. The individual has the potential to process the frightening sensations that first occurred during the traumatic event. These sensations have often been lodged in their body/mind in the form of an unprocessed stress response; such as, a fight or flight or freeze response common to all mammals. Through trauma-informed Yoga we have the ability to digest trauma and move forward.
Through this work in Yoga studios, in clinical settings and in my own body, I have witnessed the profound capacity we have as humans to overcome great suffering. Carl Jung had it right: “I am not what has happened to me; I am what I choose to become.”
As Yoga and other mindfulness-based practices become more and more popular it is vital that we, teachers and clinicians, educate ourselves first on what trauma is and secondly on how to make our classes/sessions safe and accessible for those that we come in contact with. Given the prevalence of trauma in our society, it is our ethical responsibility to teach and practice in a way that is trauma-informed. Pat Ogden, founder of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy defines trauma as “Any experience that is stressful enough to leave us feeling helpless, frightened, overwhelmed, or profoundly unsafe.” Given that definition we can guarantee that there are people who have experienced trauma in our classes and clinics. Trauma is part of the human condition and has been since the dawn of Homo Sapiens Sapiens on Earth. We are not as different as we would like to think from our ancestors who roamed the plains eating their paleo diet. Trauma has and always will be a human thing as we are wired to survive as individuals and herd animals. Anything that threatens that survival will have a last impact on our systems until it is digested and then we have the capacity to move on.
There is an old Tibetan saying, “Once you see the river, you are not completely capable of drowning in it.” Not only is this education vital for us but also for those we work with. One of the things I love about trauma-informed Yoga is that each participant is encouraged to have “choice, voice and control”. Everyone is invited to track their own nervous system and learn how to self-regulate in relationship with a teacher/therapist. So many times during my Somatic Experiencing® training and various Trauma-Informed Yoga trainings I wondered, “Why did I not learn about the nervous system in Grade 2?” If I had of had this education, it might have saved me years of not knowing how to self-regulate without the aid of food or substances.
I have had a love affair with Yoga for over 20 years now but not all practices have been soothing to my nervous system. I recall the pre-monsoon heat, the vintage fans and the nervousness in my belly during my first Yoga Teacher training in Southern India. I was instructed to go into shirshasana (headstand pose) for exactly three minutes as a group of men sitting in a row of chairs timed me with stop watches. If I could do this, I would pass this section of the teacher training. There were many other parts of the training, including using a Neti pot correctly, sequencing a Yoga class and sharing my understanding of the Bhagavad Gita but this part always stayed with me and my belly. This was very far from a trauma-informed approach to Yoga! That visceral experience reminds me of the importance that teachers/therapists understand and appreciate that not all Yoga and mindfulness-based practices are suitable and appropriate for everyone at all times. Just because it is Yoga or meditation does not mean it is healing to everyone.
As Yoga teachers and therapists we can do a lot to ensure that our classes/sessions are a safe place for participants whom may not always feel safe in their bodies, the very place where the trauma took place. Yoga can be part of peoples’ healing journey AND it is important to acknowledge that the practices can also be triggering. It is our responsibility to create an environment that honours and respects each individual. We can do a lot from the language we chose to how we set up the physical environment.
This fall at Union Yoga + Wellness, we will explore how to ensure to the best of our ability that we are creating a safe, trauma-informed space. Our intention as trauma-informed Yoga teachers and therapists can be summed up in the first Yama: Ahimsa (non-violence/non-harm). It is paramount that we learn how to create an environment that honours each person’s safety, not just of their knees but of their whole being. We need to remind ourselves there are over seven billion ways to practice Yoga. The new book by David Treleaven, Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices For Safe And Transformative Healing has been very helpful for me in my practice and I am excited to share what resonates with me.
I believe in a few years, all Yoga Teacher Trainings will have trauma-informed Yoga as part of the core curriculum, as we come to acknowledge not only the suffering that is part of the human condition but also the inherent therapeutic qualities of Yoga as a somatic-based practice.