Free classes empower survivors of trauma through yoga

Image via Exhale to Inhale Facebook page


“It took a long time of just showing up on my yoga mat, practicing through the shape and the forms. I noticed that the breath work was really helping me with my fear and anxiety, like I was coming back into the real me,” Tara Tohini told NationSwell.

Tohini spent months in a violent relationship. The abuse started off verbal, then turned physical when her abuser started threatening her life. After he was arrested, Tohini embarked on recovery, trying out yoga and finding it especially therapeutical.

“The practice of yoga physically helped me,” Tohini said.

Program director Tara Tohini. Image via NY Mag


Now, Tohini is the program director of NYC-based Exhale to Inhale, a charity that seeks to help women who, like herself, are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Exhale to Inhale was founded by Zoë LePage, who was then a senior in college brainstorming a social action project as part of a leadership program.

“I knew I wanted to do something with yoga because of how much it made me feel strong, safe and beautiful in my body,” LePage told The Huffington Post.

Exhale to Inhale brings free classes to shelters that house survivors of abuse. They are taught by certified yoga teachers who have been trained in teaching yoga to those who have experienced trauma. The classes run at a slower pace, and the students face the door at all times so the point of entry and exit is always visible to them.

The goal of Exhale to Inhale’s classes is to use the healing practice of trauma-informed yoga to help participants obtain relief and serenity, and to reduce lingering anxiety and depression as a result of their trauma. The results, it’s been noted, have been clear.

“I come to yoga classes because they make me feel better,” one participant said. “Yoga is a way to release and be free.”