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Reclaiming Agency Through Yoga & Other Practices

Written by our Youth Educator Katrina Clark, as a #WeeklyWisdom for the Community Coalition for Healthy Youth.

Yoga provides us with an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves – our breath, our bodies, our movement, our thoughts, and other sensations. A yoga practice can serve as a way to cultivate a sense of agency, or creative control and influence in our lives. Such opportunities are particularly significant for trauma survivors, as traumatic experiences are often accompanied by intense feelings of helplessness and isolation.  

If someone, for example, were to experience an earthquake or other natural disaster, this may underscore an already existing – or entirely newfound – sense of having little to no control over their environment, as they were unable to prevent the disaster and its damage. 

Victims of child sexual abuse, family or intimate partner violence, and/or sexual assault may similarly experience a sense of powerlessness. This could stem from a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: being unable to escape or shield oneself (or other loved ones) from abuse; being unable to express themselves freely within an abusive relationship; being unable to access and exercise choices, as these may be severely limited by an abuser. 

Traumatic experiences can significantly diminish our sense of agency. We can, however, rebuild our belief in our ability to make choices, express ourselves, and have power over aspects of our own life.

Even the completion of relatively menial tasks such as making one’s bed in the morning, or reaching out to a friend regularly, can be seen as ways in which we exercise our ability to guide our intentions into fruition, and thus influence our own directionalities. Of course, as evidenced previously, we cannot control everything. However, by identifying areas of our lives in which we can exert a sense of ownership and influence, we can help begin to heal ourselves from experiences where such agency was not accessible. 

Furthermore, for trauma survivors who have experienced violation(s) of their bodily autonomy, any movement or sensory-based practice, such as yoga or art-making, can help them slowly begin to reclaim their sense of control over their body, as well as their body’s right to choice.  

These acts of self-determination, no matter their sense of perceived significance or lack thereof, can cause a ripple effect in our lives. When we are able to create (whether that’s through artistic expression, a yoga practice, or even following through with a short to-do list) we claim that creative power – our innate ability to choose and thus, influence our own outcomes. 

With all this in mind – and contextualizing our collective reality within the pandemic (which may amplify any perceived powerlessness) – our yoga-inspired series developed by Erica Shockley, founder of Open Flow Yoga Adventure, is a free, virtual opportunity aimed at supporting Tompkins County teens, and providing participants with a toolkit of mindful practices they can choose to exercise whenever they may wish. 

access an additional handout highlighting several mindful practices, here

To register for our next Teen Yoga(ish) event on February 25go to 

  • Join Katrina and Erica, founder of Open Flow Yoga Adventure, for this yoga-inspired series.
  • These sessions will offer simple techniques to assist you in finding your balance, tuning into your strength, and stilling your mind. Discovering mindful practices to counter life’s pressures is an act of resilience and can help us release these tensions.
  • This is an introductory series, which means NO prior yoga experience is necessary for you to practice with us! No full-series commitment is required.
  • We understand that virtual sessions – especially those involving movement – can be intimidating to join, so if it makes you more comfy, please feel free to leave your camera off.
  • All Tompkins County teens are welcome in this supportive space to playfully and compassionately connect with their mind, body, and spirit.