When Simmons College professor Becky Thompson began training to become a yoga teacher, she said, she would hear whispers in the hallways and after sessions about people suffering from depression, loss, sexual abuse and other traumas. The traumas always seemed to be talked about in the background.
That pushed her to co-lead a workshop on trauma with her follow yogis and eventually to write the book “Survivors on the Yoga Mat: Stories for Those Healing from Trauma,” which was released earlier this month.
Thompson said in an email to the Gazette that the book explores early yoga practice and shows what makes survivors’ stories special and what recovery looks like.
She said the book contains dozens of stories, including a dynamic yoga teacher who moonlights as a firefighter, a rape survivor who cares for homeless youth in Thailand and a Boston Police Department detective and veteran who found yoga as a way to heal from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“What becomes clear in the stories is that healing is a community process—no one can do it alone,” said Thompson, who is the chair of the Department of Sociology at Simmons College. “We got to help each other, tell the truth about our lives and be sure that stories don’t stay caught in our throats.”
She said she hopes readers walk away from the book with the knowledge that survivors are not alone, even though some of them might feel like that. Thompson said many trauma survivors have “noteworthy characteristics,” such as being intuitive and ingenious, that they have developed through the healing process.
“Trauma survivors tend to throw their weight behind the underdog, are willing to question authority and take risks,” she said. “Trauma survivors often come early to yoga classes and stay late. They know that their lives depends upon healing.”
Thompson, who has been practicing yoga for 15 years, said she describes herself as being a “yoga polygamist” because she has practiced in a variety of traditions, including Bikram and Baptiste. She said she was not that interested in teaching yoga but then “fell in love” with the people she worked with.
“I still consider myself first a student, since each day is starting over on the yoga mat,” said Thompson.
For more information, visit beckythompsonyoga.com.