Erin Gilmore completed the 30-hour Firefly Training in trauma-informed yoga in February 2017. She teaches yoga full-time in San Francisco, CA. Below, Erin shares with us about her journey as a yoga teacher and how training in trauma-informed yoga has impacted her teaching.
I recently heard someone say that you don’t develop self-love; rather, you recover or rediscover it. Hearing that lit my internal YES button in a big way. And it made me recall how I’ve always thought of my yoga practice - as a practice of remembering, rather than learning. Remembering that yes, I do, in fact, love myself. Remembering that I’m capable. Remembering I’m a survivor. Remembering all these good things about myself, and all the while, building a strength that allows me to compassionately look at all the not-so-good things in me.
As a yoga student, I think it’s important and empowering to realize that this self-love has been within you all along, ready and waiting for you to dust it off and make use of it again. As a teacher, however, I’ve found a different journey. Teaching has been very much about learning from external sources and developing new techniques. Over the years, I’ve been forming and reforming how I create space for people to explore themselves every time I step into the yoga room. Through teaching yoga in a variety of spaces, I came to learn how many people attend yoga as a way to heal themselves. When I learned about the Firefly Training, I knew it would get me closer to helping students with trauma, but was surprised to find how it would impact my everyday teaching in profound ways.
One of my main goals as a guide is to help people feel deeply and powerfully connected to themselves. Achieving this means I need to utilize the clearest communication. The Firefly Training gave me a much greater awareness of the importance of what I say, and how I say it. I’m happy to report that since the training, I’ve made seemingly tiny tweaks to my language when teaching, and those changes have made a huge difference in how people receive the practice and experience themselves in my classes.
After learning more about trauma, I returned to my full-time teaching schedule and I noticed how my encouragement to go all-out and up-level poses could be detrimental to people having the true, in-the-moment experience that I was hoping to facilitate. People already feel tremendous pressure to perform and be perfect when they step into a vulnerable space like the yoga room, and I was unknowingly contributing to this pressure. In an effort to fix this, I actually overcorrected and swung hard in the opposite direction to the point where people were commenting that I had become “too nice”! It took me a minute to find the sweet spot of language that allows for an individual to feel empowered enough to make their own choices, in support of their own well-being. The feedback from people has been tremendous. “Permission” is one of the main things people tell me they feel when they practice with me.
There is so much to consider while attempting to hold space for other people while they process pretty big things. There are power and privilege dynamics at play, and microaggressions I had never considered before learning about these issues in the Firefly Training. I was trained to see teaching trauma-informed yoga through the lens of social justice, and inclusivity.
I feel like I could go on and on about all the lights that Firefly turned on for me, but I will leave you with this: it made me a more thoughtful and compassionate teacher and that is valuable for every student I’ll ever encounter.
Erin Gilmore is originally from Cape Cod, MA. She went to college in NYC, and eventually, relocated to San Francisco on a whim in 2009. Erin has been teaching full-time in the city for the past 6 years and has 500 hours of yoga teacher training. With a fresh weekly playlist and a profound message of self-acceptance, Erin teaches students to focus on their unique journey through reflective practice and hard work. Her fast-paced, deeply-rhythmic flow and strength-based training takes yogis on an intentional, invigorating, focused journey away from their ego to a place of peace and self-love. Yoga was the driving force behind reclaiming her own sense of self-love and freeing her from a long battle with bulimia and anorexia. Above all, she hopes to creates a space to practice feeling what you're really feeling, in the midst of a challenging flow, supported by good music and jokes, surrounded by community. Over the last year, Erin has also run a monthly all women's class, StrongWomenSF, that benefits Planned Parenthood. Teachers Erin admires: Elena Brower, Kathryn Budig, Sally Kempton, Annie Parr, Annie Carpenter, Jason Crandell, and Noah Levine.