Yoga and Clementines

by Gwen Soffer

It is simple and perfect: yoga. It is simple and perfect: a clementine orange.

As my field placement for graduate school, I work at a refugee resettlement service agency. Working in the wellness department, I have the opportunity to lead trauma-sensitive yoga classes, and what I have found is a constant reminder of how perfectly simple yoga can be when we are willing to let go of all the trappings.

I offer a weekly women’s yoga group, and the participants vary from week to week. With the colder weather, attendance has been down, but I love teaching the class so much, I pushed through the winter months showing up to my room every Thursday at 12:30. Each week there was always one particular student that would be there consistently ready for class. Even on days when she had an early appointment and would have to wait for up to two hours, she would come to class.

As part of the group, I bring refreshment: hummus, pita, and fruit are my go to snacks. With clementine season upon us, this has been a staple of my refreshment offering. Over the last few weeks, this student has been the only participant, so a sort of ritual has started to happen. I always make sure that she is okay to continue just the two of us, which she agrees to each time. We start with a gentle standing sequence and move to a gentle chair sequence ending with a few moments of guided meditation. She speaks a little bit of English, but our communication is not about spoken word. She carefully follows the movements as I practice with her. With each week she is more and more confident and in our last session, she smiled the whole time.  At the end of each session we sit facing each other carefully peeling the clementines and enjoying their simple juicy perfection and each other’s company.

Last week, I was scheduled to teach a short yoga session at the end of our International Women’s Day celebration at the agency. By the time I was scheduled to teach, all of the clients had trickled out of office, heading back to their homes, work or to attend to family, so I started to pack up my things. But then I noticed that this same student had come in and was sitting in the waiting room patiently. We smiled at each other, and I waved her in. I had not brought refreshments that day because this was not a regular time for the women’s group to meet, but when I looked in my bag, I found two clementines—one for each of us.

We practice in a room with chairs and desks, fluorescent lighting, in our day clothes, bustling sounds from the hallway, and I always play music I think she may like. There is no special clothing, no fancy set up, no mats, no props, no perfecting poses–just two people moving together, breathing, listening to music and eating clementines. It is simple and perfect.

Gwen Soffer, co-owner of Enso yoga studio in Media, Pa. and co-founder of Trauma-Informed Lens Yoga , is a Masters in Social Work and Trauma Certificate candidate at Widener University. In addition to her trauma-informed weekly public classes, she leads trauma-sensitive group classes and individual sessions with community groups as well as in service agency settings.

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