Hala was interviewed by Seane Corn for Yoga Journal —link to the full original article below…
SEANE CORN: We’ve worked together for seven years. Tell me about the work you’re doing on your own with service providers.
HALA KHOURI: I’ve been giving trauma-informed yoga workshops to direct-service providers such as mental-health clinicians, social workers, and staff at domestic violence agencies. Helping the helpers has been really profound. All day they are dealing with people in trauma and survival mode, so they can’t attend to their own feelings. To watch them get into their bodies, tap into their emotions, and let go has been priceless.
It’s beautiful knowing that these people can deal with their clients a little differently now that they’re taking care of themselves. Yesterday, I was teaching the staff at a residential treatment center, including security guards who help when kids lose control. I went into a hip opener, and one of them, this big, tough guy, asked afterward, “Why did I start to cry in that?” I said, “All day long, you have to take care of everybody. When you slow down, you feel all the feelings you had to set aside.”
SC: What is trauma-informed yoga, and how can we use our yoga practice as a way to identify our traumas and let them go?
HK: I see yoga as a tool for self-regulation, self-investigation, and self-awareness so that we can engage in the world in a truly authentic way. So the first inquiry is to get really honest with ourselves about how we use our yoga practice: Are we using it to punish ourselves, to further our perfectionism? I did yoga for years with these goals of doing certain postures; it was not an investigation of what I was actually feeling. Instead, we should ask how can we use yoga as an opportunity to tap into sensations in the body without judgment? This allows us to get in touch with unexpressed emotions and impulses, and we can move those through our body. And, by staying connected to your breath or your sense of grounding, you can keep from getting overwhelmed.
SC: Why are you so passionate about getting people to heal their wounds?
HK: I’m from Beirut, Lebanon, and we came to America because people were killing each other over their differences. My roots are steeped in a dynamic where people’s rage and unexpressed emotions had gotten so strong that they were killing each other. I want people to address their trauma so they don’t hurt each other.
SC: How can healing personally help heal the social and political sphere?
HK: The first course of action is to recognize the way trauma lands in our body and the impact it’s going to have on the way we communicate and on our relationships. As we change what’s happening in our own being, we start to shift the collective narrative.
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