The room was dimly lit and smelled of lavender. The silence was soothing. We lay on our mats while Ms. Sarah read Isaiah 40. She read of hope and soaring like eagles. I soaked it in. Grateful.
It was our first yoga class at Living Waters. These young ladies who seem to have boundless energy (ONLY AFTER the "I will NOT get out of this bed" argument has been sufficiently waged). These young ladies who are always poised for a fight (physical or verbal) because that's what they have had to do. These young ladies who struggle to regulate reactions and emotions. These young ladies who just want to be "normal", whatever that is (they believe it is everything that they are not). These young ladies who are (albeit slowly) learning to be others-focussed and socially appropriate. These young ladies who walked trepidatiously into that Grosse Pointe yoga studio, stressed out about the possibility of doing it "wrong". So unsure. So self-conscious.
I try to be very obvious about modeling how to do something that I know is brand new to them. I talk my way through the simplest of why's and what's as an attempt at empowerment. This takes the edge off and allows them to follow my lead. It also takes off the pressure of figuring it out. They begin to follow my lead and take their shoes off and place them on the shoe rack, as if this were old-hat! When I am sensitive to their deficits in experiences, and model with oversimplified clarity, they feel more at ease and more confident. When I see our girls try on confidence, it profoundly affects me EVERY TIME! Not taking one. single. thing. for granted, I mention as we walk into the small front office: "Oh, that's the delicious infused water for after our session, that I can't wait to drink once we are finished." Every girl responds in a way, as if to say: "yeah, of course...I was totally gonna wait until after our session to tie into that amazing-looking iced water!!!" Feeble as I feel, it is my way of teaching them without making their extreme lack of experiential knowledge painfully obvious.
Our girls WANT to be well. They simply have no skills or ego strength to draw from. When our girls arrive, we first stabilize and build trust and then we work on developing a more robust sense of self (this is an amazingly arduous process that is altogether beautiful to witness!). Without this, they simply cannot withstand the restructuring and healing process. Frailty and fragility are the most paralyzing when you are trying to heal or process trauma! We believe in the development of STURDY girls at HOP!
As we concluded our yoga session with Ms. Sarah, she again read Isaiah 40 in a soft, sweet voice while the instrumental music lulled us to relaxation. I was laying in a room of survivors. Survivors who never give up...girls so full of depth and value that I am not even worthy to roll up their yoga mats. I laid there, sprawled out on my slate blue mat with aromatherapy spritzing over me. The tears were defiantly sneaking down my temples as I looked at the ceiling. I could hardly take it all in. These girls who come to us in desperate need of emotional ICU, full of self-harming behaviors and suicidal ideations and couldn't make it through a single day without a massive meltdown...they were laying beside me in a completely relaxed pose after being silent for an hour of yoga...what fresh miracle was this? Hope is alive and change is in the air. I suddenly realized that they are not just survivors, they are overcomers!