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Confessions of a Board Member: Yoga & Therapy Groups and CCASA

By Shaayestah Merchant, CCASA Guest Blogger & Board Member

I was asked to write this post because I am a board member at CCASA and run a trauma-sensitive yoga and therapy group for women-identified survivors of trauma. Yes, being a CCASA board member and running a yoga/therapy group don’t have much in common at first glance. But humor me and read on. As a board member, one of the major responsibilities I have is fundraising for CCASA. I know first hand that fundraising, even for a cause that you are super-duper passionate about, can suck! Really. Even if the cause is as amazing as a world that is free of sexual violence! As I thought long and hard (which basically means whined, moaned, and lamented to anyone that would listen) about how I could crack the fundraising code, it came to me that I have to first find a way to actually like fundraising. I’ve learned that if I don’t like what I’m doing I get resentful of the thing I am doing, and let’s face it, nothing great ever comes from resentment. I asked myself (this time not whining and moaning), what am I passionate about at this given moment? The answer came easily….the trauma-sensitive yoga and psychotherapy groups that I have run this year. Ok, so I like my groups. Still don’t necessarily enjoy fundraising. Then it clicked! I decided that I would run these groups and commit to donating a percentage of the profits to CCASA. LOVE running my groups and like fundraising….done!

On a more serious note, I have heard repeatedly from clients over the years that giving back to other survivors is deeply important to and healing for them. I sincerely believe that it can be empowering for the survivors who participate in these groups to know that they are a big part of the solution to the problem that is sexual violence.

Regarding the benefits of trauma-sensitive yoga for survivors, these are numerous. The preliminary research on this topic is extremely promising. A previous blog post has addressed the benefits of trauma-sensitive yoga so I won’t repeat the information here. That said, in my professional experience running these groups I have seen massive emotional, physical, and spiritual growth in the group members. Clients have said, “I feel taller, stronger, braver!” “I am more forgiving of myself.” “I intentionally hurt myself less.” “Having 2 hours where it was safe to be myself without punishment was a gift I will always cherish.” What I am trying to say is that I have found a deeply meaningful way to not only to serve survivors directly but also support an organization like CCASA that touches the lives of survivors all over Colorado everyday. I am also grateful that the survivors of trauma who join the trauma-sensitive yoga and psychotherapy group will likely find empowerment in knowing that their fee is contributing positively to an important issue.

I humbly ask for your support of CCASA, the survivors you know (yes, you can include yourself), and me by spreading the word about this group. Think social media, listservs, friends, and family! Information is available at www.essentialdialogues.com. Here is a flyer with some details. The last round of this group for 2014 is scheduled for the end of August-beginning of September. Here’s how you can register. Thanks for your support!

Shaayestah Merchant joined the Board in October 2013. She is a licensed psychologist and has been working within the field of sexual assault and trauma treatment for many years. She received her master’s degree from the University of Mumbai, India, and her doctoral degree from the University of Denver. Shaayestah is deeply committed to the advocacy and healing of survivors everywhere. She believes firmly that each and every one of us has the power to change and transform our current rape-culture into one that is free of sexual violence. By being a board member and providing survivors of sexual assault safe spaces to grow, heal, and truly realize their authentic selves, Shaayestah strives everyday to be a part of this very change. She currently maintains a private practice (www.essentialdialogues.com) in Denver where she offers individual and group psychotherapy to help her clients be fully present and thrive in their lives. Shaayestah is also an adjunct professor at the University of Denver’s International Disaster Psychology Program. She is honored to be a part of CCASA and is excited about working with this inspiring group of individuals.

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