I spent the last few months as a local Chicago ambassador for Eat Breathe Thrive, raising awareness about the Chicago Module One training among yoga teachers, students of yoga, and professionals in relevant fields. In this 3-day training, participants experience parts of Eat Breathe Thrive’s community program – both as participants as as teachers who might bring some of these practices into their public classes. (Module Two training is available to those who’d like to go on to officially offer the 6-week series on their own on behalf of Eat Breathe Thrive).
To cap it all off I got to participate in Module One of this experiential training with a really lovely group of other yogis and teachers.
As someone who has dealt with a lot of food and body image issues, this was an interesting experience. The interactive portions were both fascinating and hard for me. In some respects, I’ve come a long way. I wear yoga clothes to teach every day; I don’t spend hours a day focused on my size or engage in extreme strategies to lose weight. Still, I found it challenging to talk openly about my past and current experience with these issues, even in this incredibly supportive environment. Many of us have work to do in this space.
I’ve participated in other yoga service trainings, albeit some a long time ago. Here’s what stood out to me about Eat Breathe Thrive’s training:
I felt a strong connection to the other participants was strong, and that surprised me. We did community-building activities and, for lack of a better word, GAMES, that were just plain fun! Trauma, eating disorders and yoga service are serious topics and while lots of the training obviously spoke to that, part of Eat Breathe Thrive’s philosophy is that community plays a role in healing. Taking part in group activities allowed me to experience this connection first hand. Talking about disordered eating and body image all weekend could easily get overwhelming – getting to know the others through fun, collaborative activities helped strike a balance.
Additional, more specific training and support as an option in Module Two to set up your own community program:
Eat Breathe Thrive’s Module 2 training offers mentorship (in the form of one-on-one calls, a manual, and instructional videos) and guidance for setting up and carrying out the 6-week Eat Breathe Thrive community program. In my experience of yoga service trainings, this is unbelievably smart, and unbelieveably rare. It’s no small task to get your own yoga class off the ground and it’s exciting to see an organization share resources to make this happen. While I think some yoga service classes do need to be offered at no cost to participants, it’s also beneficial to have a model like this where participants who have a budget for this community program can pay, in order to make the process of getting trained and teaching more financially sustainable for teachers.
Chelsea was our presenter and she is an incredibly engaging, lively person with funny stories. Her academic background is in science (pyschoneuroimmunology, in case that’s helpful!) and she shared insight from the science side of “why yoga works” in a very accessible way. I never felt lost.
The organization of our weekend made sense, there was a plan, and we seemed to stick to it more or less – it seemed flexible enough that we could spend more time on a topic if needed, less if not. All of us received a Module One manual with info and space for notes. I asked Chelsea specifically about setting boundaries, and she was kind enough to make time for this at the end.
A different perspective on touch:
Touch in general, hands-on assisting, has been a positive part of my own yoga practice, at least in part for me because when you don’t feel good about your body, it can be helpful to receive touch. That said, most trauma-informed trainings advise yoga teachers to avoid touch – and, personally, when I speak to teacher trainees on the broad topic of trauma informed yoga, this is the view I share and stick to in my own work.
The Eat Breathe Thrive community program is quite different in nature than most trauma informed classes, and in fact from most public yoga classes – there is substantially more training for teachers on boundary setting with regard to touch, a regular group of participants that come back each week, and an interactive/non-yoga portion of each day that offers a context for community building. For this reason I was very excited to learn the reasoning behind this aspect of the program, and to participate in parts of it. I haven’t yet done Module Two, but my impression is that the topic of touch is handled seriously, and with detail and sensitivity – it makes sense to me that done in an appropriate way, touch could be helpful in healing.