Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2020 issue.
A seemingly unlikely pairing, the buffalo and the sparrow actually embody a powerful, mutually beneficial relationship. Buffaloes instinctively face a storm, rather than flee from it, in order to lessen its suffering and pass through quickly. The sparrow offers the buffalo community, guidance and support.
For founders Rachel Stroud and Cole Schlam, Buffalo + Sparrow Yoga Collective hopes to be the sparrow for all the buffaloes currently facing the storm. The collective offers trauma-sensitive yoga classes and trainings in the Denver Metro area in studios including Asana Studio, Comeback Yoga and Samadhi Center for Yoga.
“We had experienced and witnessed yoga as a modality of deep, long-term health and recovery,” Stroud explains. “We wanted to provide a safe space for others to dive into their symptoms and navigate toward freedom through the practice of trauma-sensitive yoga.”
Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY) focuses on working the body in order to alleviate the mind — known as the bottom-up approach. This method pushes stored trauma residing in places like the chest, hips and shoulders, out of the body and the nervous system.
Grounding, balancing and strengthening poses are utilized to empower survivors and help them become more aware of their bodies. The classes are intentionally slow-paced, allowing the student time to experience and react to the feeling of a new pose and the memories it potentially brings to light. The duo doesn’t offer hands-on assists to avoid triggering their students and further support them in their journey.
A student who comes to a TSY class should expect to find compassion and leave with a well equipped toolbox to help them navigate their trauma. These classes also employ invitational cueing; this means the student is given options within each pose, empowering them through choice, which was likely taken away from them during trauma. This choice “gives them the ability to listen to their body’s needs, in order to take care of it in ways that support their unique self,” Schlam elaborates. “This helps survivors befriend their bodies and take care of themselves as awareness about their body grows.”
The power of choice is extremely important to both owners, since it “works empowerment into lived experience to take off the mat,” Stroud says. The majority of the time,
Stroud and Schlam are unaware of the specific kinds of trauma in their classes, but they believe that is completely reasonable. “We exist simply to aid in the process of healing from one’s trauma,” Stroud emphasizes.
They also stress the importance of fully feeling, even when difficult, which is crucial to holistic healing. Buffalo + Sparrow’s mission is to help practitioners achieve freedom in the body through the release and alleviation of traumatic symptoms. Stroud and Schlam challenge their students to “be the buffalo” — to face the storm head on. As the sparrow, they will be there to help provide a safe space and help people find the path to recovery. As Stroud says: “Courage in every breath.”
Lead photo by Christina Patsiokas/Green Lion Images.