A Seva Journey On Wall St. by KiraGrace Warrior Ambassador Giulia Pline
Yoga is a healing practice. It is the choice to connect with others, mending each other through movement and breath.
Recently my dear friend Michelle presented me with the opportunity to teach at an organization in NYC called Sanctuary for Families (SFF) where she is the Human Resources Generalist. SFF is New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence. Every year SFF empowers thousands of adults and children to move from fear and abuse to safety and stability. SFF is a leading advocate for legislation and public policies that promote freedom from gender violence as a basic human right.
When Michelle approached me a few months ago about coming to teach an hour long yoga session each week for a month at SFF, I was thrilled. Upon arriving to teach at SFF’s downtown NYC location, I was greeted with not only enthusiasm and warmth from all of the employees, but also with laughter and spunkiness. As we cleared meeting tables away and unrolled yoga mats, there was a collective sigh of relief: we had created our own little sanctuary, a much needed sweet hour of self-care for these amazing, hard-working employees.
One of the driving factors behind offering yoga at SFF is something many trauma workers deal with, what is known as vicarious trauma. As my friend Michelle says, “The work we do is hard. It’s a terrible thing that there is a need for what Sanctuary does, but the truth is, the need is there and it is not going away. We provide services to over 10,000 survivors of gender violence every year. Our staff are the ones who are interacting with these survivors, hearing their stories, and helping them rebuild their lives. It is very common for staff working with these survivors to experience vicarious trauma from the work they do.”
The yoga classes that I taught to the employees at SFF were gentle in flow and postures, for it wasn’t the Asana that was healing for the employees, but rather what the Asana gave way to: the breath, the connection to the body and mind, and the meditative qualities that peace of mind can bring… aka what the REAL yoga is. Michelle says, “Asana is great. Getting up, moving around, and taking a break in the middle of the day feels great. But if a staff member, regardless if they work directly with clients or not, can walk away with one thing, it’s the tool of coming back to the breath. I heard it from the first day I stepped into a yoga class. It took me years to actually figure out what it meant and how to apply it to my life. But once you learn that, life in general, whether it’s a traumatic experience, a rough day at work, or someone shoving you on the subway, becomes easier to handle. It gives you the tools to acknowledge how instances that occur in your daily life affect you, and allows for you to manage these instances better.”
It was healing for me to be surrounded by such willing, open, and kind energy at SFF. This is why I teach. Through teaching I heal my own spirit by witnessing the “ah-ha!” moments, and sharing the sweet rasa, or nectar, of the practice: the buzzing calm one experiences coming to seated after savasana.
Collectively the staff members experienced a greater sense of alertness, awareness, and were able to bring more focus to their breath throughout the rest of their day.
“I often bring in grounding techniques with clients since it is a tangible take-away for anxiety. Taking the hour to participate in the [yoga] class really helped remind me of the benefits [of yoga] and reinforced the effectiveness [of the practice] for my clients.” – Maya Williamson, yoga participant and employee at Sanctuary for Families.
For more information or to give a donation to SFF: www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org
Photos by Matt Frickovsky
As a B.F.A Dance graduate of The Boston Conservatory, Giulia began practicing yoga to supplement her dance training. The immediate calm yoga provided kept her coming back to the mat, intrigued by what the practice had to offer. Over time it was yoga’s emotional and physical healing powers that had the biggest impact on Giulia’s well being.
Giulia is an E-RYT 200 teacher, holding over 575 hrs in certifications, ranging from yoga therapeutics to vinyasa flow. She has had the privilege of studying and mentoring with teachers such as Schuyler Grant, Maty Ezraty, Alex Auder, Ame Wren, Dana Slamp, and Miles Borrero.
Giulia has been featured in Yoga City NYC, Dance Spirit Magazine, and has written for Tiny Buddha’s inspirational and motivational blog.
Giulia’s classes are uniquely creative, deeply meditative, and elegantly connected. Class is a safe haven for students to brighten their practice through the breath, awakening the inner spirit.
Learn more about Giulia at www.giuliapline.com