Mission: My mission is simple Empower Survivors of Trauma to heal through the practice of yoga, myofascial release, and a little resistance work.
Leslii Stevens , Trauma-Informed Certified Yoga Instructor, ERYT200, RYT500, YACEP
Fight for My Soul Yoga Founder
Method: Fight for My Soul Yoga, Yoga Instructors teach from a Trauma-Informed perspective. Every cue offered in class is an empowering invitation as the teacher reminds each student that they are always in control of their own practice. There are no physical adjustments offered in class; instead, only verbal instruction is used. Students have the opportunity to create an environment in class that feels comfortable for them.
Mantra: I am safe. I am Loved. I am home. I am in my body.
Healing through Yoga: Fight for My Soul is dedicated to empowering survivors of PTSD to heal through the practice of Trauma-Informed Yoga. Flashbacks of experiences can be intrusive, which can create challenges for survivors. These memories can make it very difficult for those looking to establish a connection with themselves and others. With weekly yoga practice, those who have suffered from PTSD have learned how to begin to trust again. The entire experience of practicing yoga can help survivors find a union between disconnected and challenging aspects of the self, allowing participants to slowly build pieces into an integrated whole. Talk therapy can oftentimes feel intimidating for survivors and may be re-victimizing as they share details of their traumatic experiences. By offering multiple pathways to healing and incorporating the mind, body, and spirit into treatment, Fight for My Soul Yoga Trauma-Informed Yoga offers survivors an opportunity to heal using their innate resources.
A Mindful Method: This course provides a venue for survivors to become acquainted with and reclaim their bodies, helps them become grounded in the present moment, and allows them to explore the benefits of mindfulness as they flow breath-to movement in guided Trauma-Informed practice and meditation. Classes are comprised of a 5-week series that focuses on intentional themes, including Chakra Balancing, Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga, and Restorative Yoga poses. We work on Ball Rolling techniques to help release the myofascial tissues and will start learning the basics and how to use Reiki on yourself. Reiki is an ancient Japanese technique used for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stressed, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Some other activities include journaling, and getting creative with crystals and plants allowing nature to help in grounding, balance, and focus. Classes explore the deeper meaning behind strength and pain and allow survivors to build a community in a safe, supported, and peaceful environment.
Holistic Healing: This course forces on self-acceptance and provides survivors with tangible benefits that will become noticeable throughout their practice. This gradual integration can be transformational and healing for survivors. This course provides the opportunity for survivors to:
Find peace and healing through a weekly yoga practice
Exercise the choices they have to move their body in ways that feel comfortable
Learn to establish a connection to self, trust others, and strengthen relationships
Establish safety and stability in the body
Build skills and positive coping strategies for managing painful experiences
Build a strong and supportive community of peers
Regain power and control through mindful movements and reconnection to the body
Access additional resources when they feel ready, with this course as a safe entry point
The impact trauma has on the body's physiology is far-reaching, as such it is essential to incorporate evidence-based and culturally relevant practices that provide alternative forms of healing for survivors. Because trauma has so many physical effects, it is essential for interventions to move beyond talking. Dr. Ven der kol, a leading trauma therapist in the field, reminds us, "It's great to be able to put your feelings into words, and feeling that somebody understands your suffering is enormously comforting. But it doesn't make your body know that you are safe. the real method is resetting your physiology." (Yoga Activist, 2015) This proposal outlines how Trauma-Informed yoga can work in conjunction with advocacy services and group counseling to provide a holistic approach to healing for survivors.
Yoga provides a safe and accessible way for survivors to explore their healing internally and uncovers layers of pain to get to the core of who they have always been. It offers them a form of expression that moves beyond trying to find the words to articulate how they feel. These inward experiences of healing on the yoga mat can create positive outcomes and tangible skills that survivors may have been working for years to achieve in cognitive therapy. past participants have shared that they were empowered to report to the police and/or share what had happened to them because they felt strong and stable in their bodies, others were able to be intimate again with a partner because they felt they could assertively communicate their boundaries, and many survivors expressed their ability to take control of their binge eating because they did not feel the need to have control in an unhealthy way.
Survivors have also shared that adding yoga as part of their healing program increased their confidence and self-esteem, helped them learn how to trust themselves and others, allowed them to develop a strong sense of community, helped them incorporate self-care strategies into their daily life, and empowered them to seek other resources.
Stories from My Clients
For many years I experienced both physical and verbal abuse by my husband, the father of my children. It was something I always hid. I felt that I was the only one who was wrong. My abuse was something that I lived through every day and I was completely blind. I took Domestic Violence classes and only saw it as a problem for others.
In 2021, I entered a domestic violence shelter. There I was introduced to yoga. It was the first time I moved my body in that way and the very first time I slowed down my life and really started the hard work of digging deep into my being to express the feelings I had inside. Initially, I was confused about what all the feelings meant. One night, while meditating and thinking about the classes, I felt a great tranquility that was hard to explain. It was then that my dream was born to one day teach this class. While I continued to live in the same house with my abuser, I found refuge in yoga classes. Fight for my soul Yoga with Leslii helped me get my most profound feelings out. I remember when I first sat down on that very first yoga mat not understanding why I was even here, questioning it all, and in walked this very friendly, very happy-looking yoga teacher, Leslii Stevens. Right away she had me hanging onto every word that came out of her mouth and that one-hour class was over in no time. I had tears coming down my cheeks and my yoga mat was wet. I had no idea why I was crying all I knew was I felt like the weight of the world was released from me. The next day I felt great, and my body and mind was wanting to be back in that yoga class. I cried a lot in those first 6 weeks of going to yoga. I think my heart moved my entire being in those first few weeks of yoga classes trying to show me that I needed to love myself first.
Once, when I was separated from my abuser, he swore to me that he had changed, so I went back to him again. I returned with hope, only to go back to more suffering. But thanks to my yoga practice, I was no longer the same. His comments affected me less, and I was sure I didn’t trigger or provoke his blows. I knew it was he who could not control himself.
Without my yoga practice, I would still be lost. I would be without hope, resigned to continue believing that the situation I was in was normal and what I deserved. When I left the abusive relationship (with my children) for the last time, I knew it was the yoga that had allowed me to let go of my past. It made me responsible for myself, deciding how I wanted to live my life and create a better future with my children.
Leslii helped take away the bandages I wore over my eyes and now I see the light that illuminates my road ahead. Yoga helped me see a world that my abuser would not let me see. Yoga is my voice; through yoga, I can shout from the depths of my being; it is freedom! -Liz
Client case study: I did a 5-week Fight for My Soul private yoga session with a 17-year-old girl who has had a very tough home life over the past four years. Her mother, a domestic violence survivor, (and one of my students) referred her because she was concerned for her daughter and the things she has witnessed growing up. She said she had no interest in spending time with her friends anymore and had been isolating herself a lot lately.
I was afraid I was going to lose her, afraid she wouldn’t agree to come to see me, after just that first visit. So, I sat down with her and asked her if she knew anything about crystals. She looked surprised at first and smiled like maybe she thought it was silly, but she did and really wanted to know more! I got my “Stress Release Crystal Reiki Toolbox” and began to teach her a little bit about each stone and a little bit about Reiki. I showed her how she could get creative with the crystals and how she could use Crystal Reiki in her daily life. And she started talking to me about her past and how she is determined not to let it affect her future. She said, “I would like to be as cool as these stones to match what my future looks like because I have a strong bright one, just nobody sees that, yet.”
She is doing very well in high school and I will likely be working with her until she graduates in June. Therefore, my prime objective with her right now is to encourage her to keep that determination and enter college in the Fall. We end every one of our yoga practices with a little bit of Crystal Reiki Therapy…we do Crystal Reiki together for 20 minutes. That’s her shavasana and her time to talk or not talk. Sometimes yoga can move trauma to the surface and we just need a kind ear to hear us. I will hold space for this client for as long as she needs me to.
Client Case Study: A 37-year-old woman participated in a small all-women’s 3-hour Fight for My Soul Yoga Workshop called “A Safe Calm Place.” She fully immersed herself in the yoga and meditation class frequently closing her eyes while creating to re-visualize the details of her “Safe Calm Place.”
She described her “Safe Calm Place” as being somewhere imaginary where she could meditate and be surrounded by soft items like overstuffed great big pillows and soft blankets. She described each one of her five senses fully, identifying the place to smell like a certain perfume. The sound in her Safe Calm Place is her mother’s voice talking in her ear and she can hear music faintly in the background all ones that she and her Mom had played a lot while together. This client’s mother died when she was in 6th grade, and sometimes she struggles to remember the sound of her voice. In her Safe Calm Place, she can always hear that sound bringing her comfort and love. She blocked out all stressful thoughts that try to intrude on her peacefulness.
This client is planning on creating a playlist with the songs that brings her joyful happy thoughts of her time with her Mom and will add new ones that she thinks her Mom would love. She also picked one word to help remind her of her Safe Calm Place. Each time she wants to go back to that place, she will say or think her words to help immerse herself back into the safety and comfort she felt. The word she chose Mom. -Suzanne
Leslii cultivated and curated a supportive, empowering, and nurturing environment, where for the first time in my survivor-hood, I felt comfortable enough to disclose my status as a sexual assault survivor to a group of strangers. What I encountered in my 8 Week Fight for My Soul Yoga Classes from her and our fellow classmates, inspired change all the way to my core. Leslii’s teachings were unlike anything I has ever encountered in a Yoga environment before. She made me feel safe, supported, encouraged, and rather than guiding me through a sequence devoid of any of my own decision-making, she invited me to explore the sequence as much as my own body felt called to it, or to feel free to exercise my choice not to perform the pose. She softly, and tenderly created a compassionate space for me to exercise a series of choices with my own body, something I was previously unaware that my body so dearly craved.
-Fight for My Soul Yoga 8 Week Series Participant, 2021 -Kelly
5-Week Course Becoming Trauma Aware: Creating a Healing practice
Whether you are searching for your own healing or looking to share healing practices with others this 5-Week Trauma-Informed is for you.
This training is led by Leslii Stevens ERYT200, RYT500, YACEP, who is trained in Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga, CLIR Yoga Certified, and multiple different trauma-sensitive informed yoga training. She will lead you through how to lead trauma-informed Restorative yoga Practices.
Incorporating both theory and practical work these five 90-minute online classes will provide you with the foundation for being trauma-sensitive, understanding how the body holds trauma and specific practices to begin to release it.
This course includes:
Access to the Google Classroom
5 Yoga classes and Mini-lectures on Trauma-Informed Yoga
Comprehensive 200+ page Fight for My Soul Trauma-Informed yoga resource guide with all relevant materials to implement a comprehensive, holistic, integrated, and sustainable program
You will learn
· The science behind how our brain and nervous system process trauma
· Why we hold trauma in the body
· Why yoga helps through the healing process
· Yoga techniques to release chronically held stress and tension from the body
· Specifics for being trauma aware
· How to handle triggers with your clients and students
· Upon completion, you will be certified to teach restorative yoga
This course is for anyone looking for their own healing (yoga experience not required). Yoga teachers, personal trainers, healthcare workers, social workers, teachers, educators, fitness instructors, and other wellness professionals looking for a deeper understanding of how the body holds trauma, or other therapists looking for Somatic wellness techniques (Somatic Experiencing is a body-centered approach to treating PTSD that, rather than focusing only on thoughts or emotions associated with a traumatic event, expands to include bodily (somatic) responses.) In understanding how we process trauma; we can slowly begin to unravel the layers of our healing. Through yoga, we begin to reconnect to ourselves, our breath, and the present moment. While there are many paths to healing, incorporating somatic work, through the body will help us complete this cycle.
This course will not certify you as a Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher. However, it will provide you with information on how to be trauma-sensitive. If you are a current yoga teacher or private trainer you can utilize the skills from this course for your classes and clients right away.
"If you really want to help a traumatized person,
you have to work with the physiological states,
and then the mind will start changing."
Bessel Van der kolk M.D.
Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY) is an evidence-based treatment for complex trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is used with children, youth, and adults throughout the world. Some participants engage with Trauma Sensitive Yoga as part of a holistic approach to healing from trauma, a complement to their ongoing counseling. And others participate as an extension of their yoga practice. Anyone can participate, regardless of their level of physical abilities and experience. The goal is healing.
Although Trauma Sensitive Yoga employs physical forms and movements, the emphasis is not on the external expression or appearance (i.e. doing it “right”) or receiving the approval of an external authority. Rather, the focus is on the internal experience of the participant. This shift in orientation, from the external to the internal, is a key attribute of Trauma Sensitive Yoga as a complementary treatment for complex trauma and has been empirically validated. With this approach, the power resides within the individual, not the facilitator. (Although it is important to practice with a qualified facilitator.)
Elements of Trauma Sensitive Yoga include:
Evidence-Based Practice: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga is an empirically validated, adjunctive clinical treatment for complex trauma or chronic treatment-resistant Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. TSY has foundations in both Trauma Theory and Hatha Yoga with an emphasis on body-based yoga forms and breathing practices.
Sensitive Techniques: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga participants are invited to notice and feel sensations within their bodies throughout the practice. Participants are then encouraged to make choices about what they do and how they move with their bodies based on what they sense. This supports participants to investigate what choice feels supportive for them, taking cues from their own individual experiences.
Inquiry-Based Exploration: The approach applies choice and body-centered self-awareness to support a recovery process, a gentle intervention that initiates healing through people regaining a relationship with the present moment and their body. The language used throughout a yoga session is invitational and encourages curiosity to explore what one might feel in different parts of their body based on the form they are choosing to take.
The goal of Trauma Sensitive Yoga is to reconnect with, befriend, and ultimately feel empowered in your body. In a comfortable and predictable environment, you are invited to notice sensations, experiment with movement and breathing and practice making choices about what is right for you. Furthermore, by focusing on the felt sense of the body to inform choice-making, Trauma Sensitive Yoga enables participants to restore their connection of mind and body and cultivate a sense of agency that is compromised as a result of trauma.
“Is Trauma Sensitive Yoga right for me?” If you’re asking the question, you may be a good candidate for this approach to heal from trauma within the body. Consult with your counselor or physician before taking a yoga class.
Fight for My Soul Yoga by Leslii Stevens E-RYT200, RYT 500, YAQCEP, RMT
I wanted to make a place where it felt like a soft landing, a space of comfort. A soft pillow to rest your whole body on and to start to feel new patterns begin to take shape at a cellular base.
Are experiencing mild dysregulation and struggling to calm down.
Feel disconnected from your body and experience stiffness and muscular tension.
Find regular yoga classes or exercise programs to triggering or inaccessible.
Safety is the key
Trauma-informed yoga classes are all about creating a safe, comfortable and supportive environment to help you reconnect with your body. Very often people who have experienced acute stress or trauma report feeling disconnected from physical sensations. To rebuild this connection, it is absolutely crucial to feel safe. Here are some of the ways I will try to ensure this safety and support in my classes:
Gentle and accessible movement and yoga shapes
The movement and yoga shapes in my trauma-informed classes are quite gentle. They are also accessible for different bodies and abilities. I will never ask you to do something that is too difficult or beyond what your body is capable of at that moment. Moreover, it is my absolute priority to respect your physical limitations and work with them, and never be against them. The purpose of this class is to increase your body awareness and help you understand your physical boundaries. It’s a gradual process that shouldn’t be rushed.
You have the choice and you are in control
In my trauma-informed yoga classes, I will invite you to try certain shapes or movements instead of telling you what to do. I will keep reminding you that everything is an invitation. So you can always decide whether you want to explore the suggested movement or shape or prefer a different variation. Also, whenever you wish, you can always choose to come out of the shape and rest. This can help you rebuild your sense of self-agency and control over your body. After all, no one knows your body better than you do.
You have the information
Knowing what is happening to you, what is the purpose of the exercise you are doing, or what to expect, helps you to feel safer and more empowered. As a trauma-informed yoga facilitator, I try to minimize the risk of confusion or overwhelm during the class. This way, you can fully relax and experience a deeper connection to your body. Often, understanding why we are doing what we are doing makes the action much more meaningful and enjoyable. And it is my responsibility to give you just enough information at the right time without overloading you.
Minimizing potential triggers
Everyone’s nervous system is different and reacts to the same stimuli in a unique way. Here are some things that I will do my best to ensure during the class: low ambient music or no music, no scents, calming lights (whenever possible), and a calm and clear voice. In an in-person class, I’ll make sure there is a safe distance between them. I won’t offer hands-on adjustments unless it’s absolutely required, in which case, I’ll always ask for your consent first. In an online class, you always have permission to keep the camera off if you wish to do so.
You learn the tools of self-regulation
Emotional self-regulation is an invaluable life skill that you can start developing on a yoga mat. You will experience it through connection with the breath and increased body awareness. You’ll learn how to calm yourself down and know how to deal with discomfort. This way you’ll be more equipped and less powerless when faced with emotional and physical distress in your daily life.
What to expect from my private classes?
In my trauma-informed yoga classes, I combine Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga, and slow-paced Hatha, Myofascial Release Ball & Foam Rolling. I often alternate between static postures and mindful movement for a more balanced class.
Yin Yoga offers time and a comfortable space to slow down, release physical tension and calm the mind. While gentle Hatha sequences help to build strength and concentration as you work at your own pace. Myofascial Release starts to help work out all the hidden knots, stress, and tension within the muscles. Creating more space within, reducing all that stress and tension, and allowing for a better range of motion.
I’ll carefully guide you in and out of the poses and will suggest variations and adjustments for your unique anatomy. Also, the pace, intensity, and structure of the class will depend on your current abilities and needs and will be modified throughout the class whenever required.
Interested in having a private class with me?
At the moment I’m based in Hudson, Mass., and teach online via Zoom.
You can schedule a free 20-minute intro session by sending an email to help me understand your needs and see how I can tailor your classes.