MARTINSBURG — Throughout the country on Dec. 12, yoga studios all over will be participating in the Take Back the Night Foundation’s Shine Your Light Festival, an emphasis on trauma-informed yoga and safe spaces for survivors to relax and practice.

Of the more than 100 studios participating, Omasis Yoga in Martinsburg will be one, providing that space at 9 a.m.

“It’s a fantastic idea, and I’m hugely honored,” Omasis owner Paulette McGee said. “I don’t know the specific statistic, but it’s vast, like 1 in 4 people you meet is going to have had a traumatic experience in their life, whatever that means. It can be sexual abuse; it can be domestic abuse. That’s astounding considering the amount of people we meet and even just bump into peripherally. It’s a huge, horrible thing that happens to people, and a lot of times survivors have not only the guilt of having survived a situation that’s bad, but they also feel like they’re at fault. Being given the opportunity to provide a space for people was a huge honor.”

A certified yoga instructor but not specifically certified in trauma-informed practice, McGee received training from the Take Back the Night Foundation, ensuring she had all the tools needed to be there for the survivors choosing to practice. The hope is that the space provided allows for a safe feeling and tools to help mitigate the anxiety and negative feelings that come along with trauma.

“What Take Back the Night Foundation has done is they have reached out to various studios throughout the country and solicited to see if they want to hold space for people, survivors of traumatic experiences, in particular, sexual abuse,” McGee said, “but it’s for anybody whose experienced trauma. It provides a space where people can come in – they were planning this before COVID, so now it’s either in person with precautions or via Zoom – and they solicited studios to hold classes that are all-inclusive and safe havens for people who want to come in and practice yoga as a tool to mitigate stress and anxiety. It’s not a solve-it, not a one-size-fits-all, but it’s experiencing breath work and particular poses that might be inviting for people.”

To help be that safe space, the focus will be on less-triggering vocabulary that invites those participating to relax, as well as physical techniques that may provide an outlet for stress.

“That deals a lot with language that is inviting,” McGee said. “We don’t want to say, ‘Do this or do that.’ It’s more inviting, like, ‘Find a place that works for you. See what you feel like.’ It’s less directive.

“Yoga can be beneficial. It allows you to check in with your breath and how you’re feeling. Breath work has a science behind it. You can relax.”

McGee will be able to provide both in-person yoga, as well as virtual yoga that night — as well as for her regular classes — having adapted her space for both through COVID-19. The space is sanitized frequently and limited to three people aside from McGee to provide 12-foot distancing. She also recommends in-person students bring their own props and mats. However, many students have opted to take the virtual route, both McGee and her students adapting to the new way of practicing.

“Students have been hugely adaptable, as well,” McGee said, noting the benefits of practicing yoga during uncertain times like the current pandemic. “They’re very interested in doing breath work or meditation or any sort of movement that gets them out of that shell and allows them to still be able to do yoga or whatever it is. A lot of it is people get tired of staring at the screen, so I know some yoga places have had outdoor classes. It’s getting cold now, so that’s not as easy to do. But the fact we have Zoom and are able to still hold space has been wonderful.”

She said there’s been fears of losing internet and other technology issues, but Zoom and online forums have been great about providing answers and solutions to any problems.

McGee started practicing yoga years ago, becoming truly dedicated in 2014, before offering classes at the South Jefferson Public Library and her home in 2017. She then moved to the current space at the Integrity Terrace location in the spring of 2019, the space nestled in Legacy Gym’s area, a business owned by her husband.

To find more information on Omasis Yoga or to sign up for classes or the Shine Your Light event, visit www.omasisyoga.wordpress.com. McGee will send a waiver form and Zoom link via email for participants. All proceeds from the Shine Your Light Festival classes will go to the Take Back the Night Foundation to benefit the organization’s programs through the year.

For more information on the Take Back the Night Foundation, visit www.takebackthenight.org, where McGee said a plethora of resources are available.

“They are much more vast than just the Shine the Light Festival,” McGee said. “They’ve got a lot of resources, and if people are feeling alone or worried or concerned, they have a lot of resources, people to talk to, people to touch base with so you don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself. Yoga is just one of the many tools. Take Back the Night Foundation has many resources, places you can look to find people to talk to. The proceeds from this event go to their foundations so they can help survivors of abuse.”



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