Firefly Co-Executive Directors (EDs) interview Sarah Terranova (ST, pictured right), a Firefly Yoga teacher and massage therapist based in Tahoe City, CA.
Since November 2015, Sarah has led the Firefly Program in trauma-informed yoga at Tahoe SAFE Alliance, a domestic violence and sexual assault center in King’s Beach, CA.
EDs: You participated in our Firefly Training in trauma-informed yoga in May 2015. Can you tell us how about that experience and how it prepared you to lead survivors through a practice?
ST: The Firefly Training prepared me to lead trauma survivors in an extremely grounded but also soft way. For me, the focus of the trauma-informed teaching is much different than my original training in Power Vinyasa. With a slower paced teaching style, I learned trauma-informed language and how to use that language to support the survivor in exploring their body and mental state. I also learned how to offer variations more effectively, for poses you might not even think to modify in “regular” studio classes.
Trauma-informed yoga gets back to the pure roots of practicing yoga. It’s not to look more fit, do crazy arm balances, be pushed beyond your limits or any of the other interesting reasons people are drawn to yoga. It’s purely to practice awareness of the body and the breath. To gain a mindful state on the mat in order to take it with you in your life off the mat. The Firefly Training taught me that simplicity was ok, and still a powerful practice of connection to oneself. It gave me the confidence to teach that less really is more.
EDs: You have been leading our Firefly Program at Tahoe SAFE Alliance in King’s Beach since November 2015. What has your overall experience been like there?
ST: The experience has been new and ever-changing. Overall, my feedback on the program is that it is well-received from participants who come regularly, but each week is so different - I never know what to expect. These classes are much different than a studio and the students react differently to the practice than a studio class.
EDs: From your perspective, how has the Firefly Program (trauma-informed classes) been received by the participants? Do you notice any changes in clients before/after class? Do you have any particular anecdotes you’d like to share about your experience?
ST: Those who attend seem to really like it and have recently been inquiring about things like concentration and focus during class. I’ve had a few ask for more or longer relaxation practices, such as the Nidra-based guided relaxation I typically offer at the end of each class. That seems to be almost everyone’s favorite part, and most recently I’ve had a few students drifting off during it, completely relaxed with slow to snoring breaths. Participants seem to have that yoga glow afterwards, seemingly more grounded.
EDs: When you lead trauma-informed classes, what sort of preparation do you enact before teaching, and what self-care efforts do you make after?
ST: It’s quite a drive from my house so usually I ground on the way there, and sometimes hang out in the area prior to class so that I don’t feel rushed. A big self-care technique has been actually doing the post class write-up (teaching journal) to process class and help me make mental notes of what I want to remember, or if something came up during the experience that I want to revisit.
EDs: From your experience, what is the primary difference (from a teaching perspective) in leading trauma-informed classes versus studio classes?
ST: The primary difference for me would be language - not using any Sanskrit (which can make yoga seem even more of a mystery to students) or triggering words, such as “deepen”. The pace of class is definitely slower and I offer more variations and props than many typical studio classes.
EDs: Tell us about your yoga practice and teaching career. How long have you been teaching yoga? What types of classes do you teach?
ST: I have been practicing yoga consistently for seven years and teaching for three and a half. My practice style has mostly been an Ashtanga-inspired vinyasa. Since my first yoga teacher training in the spring of 2013, I have been introduced to many other styles that I enjoy practicing and teaching. I now teach Power Vinyasa yoga, or just Vinyasa yoga, Yin, Hatha Flow, and Yoga Nidra.
Photo: Sarah Terranova (back row, left) participated in the Firefly Training in trauma-informed yoga in spring 2015. She began leading the Firefly Program at Tahoe SAFE Alliance later that year.
EDs: We’d love to hear about your career path in serving/massage therapy. What is the nature of your work? What led you to this line of work?
ST: I do massage therapy part time. My first yoga teacher training, and the desire to help others, led me to my interest in massage therapy. It is a yogic line of work, based on giving healing touch and supporting others. My other current job, possibly not a career but my line of work for now, is serving. Serving was always a way to afford me my tuition costs for college, then yoga training, and then massage school. Simply serving people food and drinks is a job that has helped me afford the time and money for the training's I’ve wanted to do without working 40 hours a week. It was always just a means to an end but living in a tourist area now, it is one of the few jobs available.
EDs: Do you see a connection between yoga and your day job? If so, how?
ST: I definitely see a connection with yoga and massage. Yoga brought me to massage. Both are healing, but I think yoga is a practice to learn how to heal yourself whereas massage is purely receiving a healing touch from others. As a massage therapist, self-care is highly encouraged and yoga is one form of that for me. The teachings of yoga have absolutely spilled into my daily life of serving late at night and waking early for yoga or massage work, in that I am more mindful of my interactions with others. Self-care is now important to me and I am more loving and compassionate towards others in the workplace, customers and co-workers.