Sarah Kay’s Personal Yoga Journey

We were so inspired by this YBD student’s heart-felt story about her yoga journey
we just had to share it with you:

“Safe Haven”

By: Dr. Sarah Kay Welch, DO

My heart pounded against my ribcage. Sweat beaded on my forehead. Fear seeped
into my chest. I knew what was coming. In a matter of seconds, I transported to
a personal hell from twelve years prior. I knew this response was not logical;
it did not make any sense. I tried everything I could think of, but nothing stopped
the flashbacks. As a physician, I worked endlessly to treat patients, yet I could
not cure myself.

As a result of sexual abuse as a teenager, I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD). Associated with it, I experienced uncontrollable flashbacks and nightmares.
During those flashbacks I could see, hear, feel, and smell sensations from tragedies
of times long ago, even when I was somewhere completely safe, like reading in my
office. My mind incessantly ruminated on thoughts of what happened in the past.
I dissociated completely from my body. I felt like a failure because I felt out
of control and blamed myself for what happened so many years before.

I tried many avenues of healing, including medication and psychotherapy, which helped,
but my symptoms still tortured me. I poured over research on PTSD and anxiety by
the Justice Resource Institute and other sources. Inspired by the research, I walked
into a yoga studio. Finally, I found some relief. I started to feel at home in
my body. During my practice in the studio, the flashbacks ceased. However, they
restarted when I left the practice space. The style I practiced was too rigid and
I needed something more. My search began again.

Then I tried Yoga By Degrees and found my safe haven. From the beginning, the instructors
embraced me as a member of their community. They invited me to feel the sensations
in my body and do what felt right. They encouraged me to listen to my own body
and turn my yoga practice into what I needed. My aggressor stripped me of my choice
on how to use my body and even how to feel. Class by class, I regained control
of my sensations and emotions. My confidence increased as I learned to focus on
the present moment. The flashbacks and nightmares significantly decreased in intensity
and frequency. When the flashbacks did occasionally occur, I utilized the meditation
techniques I learned at Yoga By Degrees to cope and soon the dissociations stopped.
I thrived in the positive energy created by the compassionate students and dedicated
instructors as their constant encouragement kept me motivated to continually deepen
my practice mentally, emotionally, and physically.

As I glided through the poses, instructors uttered soothing encouragements such
as, “You are enough, just as you are.” As I stretched on my mat, my body and mind
became open to this new idea. I was neither the PTSD nor the trauma from my past.
Instead of a failure, I transformed into a survivor with the ability to heal myself.
Under the guidance of the well-grounded and always accepting instructors, I learned
to accept myself as I am. My personal and professional life improved as I became
more focused, calm, and compassionate towards the many family members and patients
I am lucky enough to have in my life.

Now, I hope to give others the safe haven I was given by the amazing teachers at
Yoga By Degrees. Fortunately, the studio runs a training program. I am learning
to lead safe classes that offer students the opportunity to find their own transformative
experiences. Soon, I hope to help trauma victims and anyone else seeking their
own peace of mind just as Yoga By Degrees helped me turn a terrifying and horrific
situation into a future of hope, peace, and contentment.”


Yoga by Degrees Mission:

“To cultivate peace, joy, and community in a compassionate environment by promoting
a balance between courage and acceptance. We make yoga accessible to everyone,
through linking breath with movement. We guide you on a path of self-discovery
that enables you to cultivate the strongest most flexible mind and body to live
each moment to the fullest on and off the mat.”

With this mission in mind, Yoga by Degrees asked its community to share their yoga
story in order to share the word about the highs and lows, breakdowns and breakthroughs,
and transformative powers of the yogi path. There was an outpouring of inspiring
responses. Stay tuned for more stories on our blog, coming soon.

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