A story that contains sexualized violence, beginning when I was a baby and not ending until I was 19 years old. Ironically, however, it is exactly this story of pain and suffering that has brought forth a life full of love and light. Without it I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today… and I quite like that person.
It was my step-mum, also a survivor of sexualized violence who just happened to be a yoga instructor, who suggested I explore yoga as a means to heal. Not realizing that the practice was about releasing through toxins – physically and emotionally – I didn’t quite understand how it was going to help, but I decided to give it a go.
It didn’t take long for the practice to unleash the emotional trauma that I had spent years stifling, protecting deep within the confines of my body. Needless to say, I wasn’t too keen about experiencing these emotions. They were more than terrifying.
Lost and confused, I reached out to my step-mum. Her words were simple, yet deep: “It takes great courage to be vulnerable”.
And so I continued to practice.
For years I practiced within the safety of my own home, until one day a studio opened up down the road. It was the combination of my step-mum’s encouragement, along with my own curiosity, that led me to those doors. With my legs shaking and breath short I made my way inside. I quietly placed my mat in the back corner of the studio, lining up the edges just so with the hardwood.
It was here that I met my teacher – Michelle. She radiated love and light. She was powerful, confident, and tender. Her voice rang through the studio like a beautiful songbird. Her passion was deep and her attention to detail was remarkable. Every once in a while she would praise me, “Beautiful, Patricia… Yes, you’ve got it, Patricia, right there!” Sometimes she would thoughtfully offer me a nurturing assist or an adjustment for proper alignment; her touch was so gentle and healing. She was enthusiastic and really and truly cared.
It was the safety that Michelle brought into the studio that enabled me to linger in meditation. I felt, for the first time in my life, a sense of stillness. Peace.
But what was even more magical is that I was able to sit within the chaos that was bubbling up inside my body and trust that it was simply a process… of experiencing and releasing.
What I’ve never shared with Michelle, until now, is that it was her yogic wisdom that guided me through the process of accepting that I was beaten, molested, raped… damaged. These same teachings guided me through the process of forgiving my uncle for a lifetime of violence.
But more than acceptance and forgiveness, advice gently spoken from my teacher’s lips, alongside a perfectly postured practice, I was led to a place deep within my Self. A place that asked me to do the unthinkable.
And so I did. With the guidance of my teacher and the support of my practice, I began to appreciate the person I am and the story that has helped to create me.
Patricia Arnoldin is a Halifax based yoga teacher who is currently working on her Master’s of Social Work thesis, exploring how a yoga practice can enhance feminist therapy with survivors of sexualized violence. Tricia and her partner Andrew have been blessed with three children – Nathan aged 7 and twins Mila & Laya aged 3.5 – who are some of her biggest teachers, and who are often found playing yoga beside her. Aside from being a busy mum and Dalhousie student, you will likely find Tricia on her mat, whether it is practicing or teaching. She believes wholeheartedly that the practice of yoga is first and foremost therapy, releasing the stress we place on our body every day – be it social pressure, past trauma, or day-to-day struggles. One of her goals is to be a part of the change in bringing yoga forward as a recognized form of embodied therapy for survivors of sexualized violence. You can find her at www.yogawithtricia.com, on Instagram or Facebook at Yoga with Tricia.