Cat Bigley of RYT Yoga and Trauma Informed Yoga
Written by Christiane Marshall
Cat Bigley signed up to become certified as a trauma informed yoga therapist just before the pandemic hit. The program is put out by the non-profit Bodywise Foundation in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University. Bigley’s heart for this program came about as a result of a personal search to be able to help individuals who have experienced trauma – for example children who have suffered abuse or loss, individuals working in law-enforcement, the medical field, and the recovery community.
She was surprised to learn that much of her present practice as a teacher has reflected some of the principles she has been learning about. Her education in this field is ongoing. The fact that now so many of us have experienced trauma during the pandemic has validated her decision to pursue this particular certification.
Even a pandemic can’t hold Bigley down. She has successfully taught online yoga and Tai Chi classes, though she is thankful to be able to begin in person classes now. She is teaching the first Rooftop Yoga class on June 5th, complete with social distancing, and no shared equipment.
See below for Q and A on this topic:
Question: Give me a brief overview of the program on trauma informed yoga. What attracted you to it?
Cat– my ultimate goal is to be a certified yoga therapist, so I have been looking at programs for a couple of years. I was searching for one that lined up best with my goals that was also a training I could attend.
This particular program was developed by a former teacher of mine who has actually been to Marietta teaching workshops when I had my studio on Front Street. I followed her professional career. Seeing her pairing with this program conducted with John Hopkins University, I’ve gained a lot of respect for the associated research on the benefits of this mindful practice. The fact that it was in a medical and university setting adds a high level of credibility.
Question: You started the program before the pandemic hit. What are your reflections on the timing and how you plan to put it into practice?
Cat – I find it ironic and timely that I’ve been drawn to this training and now everyone is feeling some level of trauma from the fears of the virus and shelter in place.
It’s daunting but also feels validating that I am (and teachers like me) are what the world needs right now
Question – Will this be a new specific class that you teach or will it just be integrated in your present classes?
Cat – I found it interesting that some of the basic tips on how to teach individuals with trauma and PTSD are the way that I teach already. However, I will be teaching specific classes only for communities that have suffered trauma and PTSD. For example, children of abuse who are in foster homes. Alsom anyone who works in law-enforcement, the medical field, or who are in the recovery community (members of AA , Al-Anon, NA., etc.)
Question – My personal thoughts are that this pandemic has been traumatic for many of us, some more than others. What do you think?
Cat – Absolutely the definition of trauma at BodyWise Foundation is that it’s something that comes at us and we don’t have the resources in our toolbox to cope with it.
Everyone. Everyone ….is dealing with trauma right now because this is a time in the world that none of us could ever be prepared for, or even believe this could happen. We have so much uncertainty as we move forward.
These classes are absolutely needed by all demographics.
Question – How will this work – will there be any collaboration with mental health therapists, such as referrals or something else?
Cat – Absolutely. I work with counselors and therapists at Mindfulness LLC in Saint Mary’s West Virginia. On a daily basis I get referrals from these counselors for people who need everything from using their breath for relaxation to rehabilitation after physical injury. But really it’s about creating a mindful practice so that they have a tool box of coping skills that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.
Question — Anything else you’d like to tell me?
Cat – Bodywise Foundation is a nonprofit created and working hand-in-hand with Johns Hopkins University. I will continue my training with them for all demographics, but also specifically for children with trauma. This new certification combined with my personal and professional mission, my past education and history makes me feel very well equipped to take this knowledge and share it with anyone who’s ready.
The program draws from research and best practices from the fields of yoga, trauma informed practices, neuroscience, social emotional well-being, body-mind therapies, mindfulness and the benefits of rest and relaxation.
From the program’s website (https://www.bodywisefoundation.org/): At Bodywise Foundation we define trauma as any experience that is overwhelming for the body or that the body does not have the resources or time to integrate. Trauma is incredibly common and everyone has experienced it in their own unique way.
If you’re interested in Cat Bigley’s classes, you can find information at Cat Bigley RYT.