Yoga, Trauma and Social Justice

Hey all!

Yesterday I participated in a great workshop called "The Issues In Our Tissues: Yoga, Trauma and Social Justice." You may be wondering: what the heck does yoga have to do with trauma and social justice?


It's well documented that communities and subgroups of folks who suffer the injustices of the world are more likely to suffer trauma. Trauma is what happens when our ability to cope is overwhelmed, leaving us feeling helpless, hopeless and out of control. In situations of trauma and stress, our sympathetic nervous system activates and we go into fight / flight / freeze mode. Being in an activated state for a prolonged period of time takes its toll on our bodies and minds.

Whether we as individuals belong to an oppressed group, or whether we are taking part in social justice work, or even if we are just existing in today's political and social landscape, our nervous systems are, no doubt, activated. When we're in this state of high alert activation, our parasympathetic nervous system - the rest / digest / heal / restore mode - is off.

Think about it. When we're experiencing stress and trauma, whether it's one time or recurring, we can't fully engage the system responsible for healing and restoring. To be truly present in conversations around social justice, we must first look inward and care for ourselves.

Taking time for self care means slowing down. This can mean taking time for mindfulness, for yoga/movement, for breath work. These strategies have been effective for people of all ages. When we intentionally care for ourselves and activate our abilities to rest and slow down, we are more prepared to be compassionate. We are more resourced to be better listeners and communicators, to build community and interdependence. We have more capacity for empathy, both for others as well as for ourselves.

Isn't this a really necessary first step in doing the deeply important work of social justice?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, FRS.

~ Kate Blair


  1. Yes, Kate! I think that this topic, taking care of yourself as a means to impact a social change, is one of the most complicated things to understand because it is addressed so infrequently. For me, it is very easy to get lost in so many external issues that I can forget that I'm only capable of doing one thing at a time. Taking the time to breathe and focus inward directly impacts the capacity to focus on the external, as well.
    This is timely. Every year I show this Ted Talk to my 9th graders, and it happens that I'm showing it today:
    Dan Millman makes the argument that our story is our treasure and we need to honor it by focusing on what we can control, which is what we do moment by moment. He believes that self-care is the foundation for our external output.


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