Laura Beth Wenger
“Laura Beth Wenger is a yoga, meditation, and movement teacher (E-RYT 500), personal trainer, and mobility coach (through Functional Range Systems) with 5,000 hours of teaching experience. She specializes in movement for trauma, stress, anxiety and depression, especially for those who do not feel welcome or safe in traditional wellness spaces.”
About Laura Beth Wenger
I was never an athletic or coordinated kid. I loved to read and climb trees, but my attempts to play organized sports left me feeling confused and uncoordinated. What seemed to be natural and effortless for others just didn’t come easy for me. I figured movement just wasn’t something that I was made to do.
That seemed okay to me, because my personality has always been introverted, introspective, and a little bit outside the box. Those tendencies also meant that I had a predisposition toward codependency, anxiety, and depression. By the time I was 18, I’d been hospitalized for suicidal tendencies and was an expert on the pharmacopeia of anti-depressants. For the next 10 years, I tried all kinds of therapy and medication, but mostly, I was resigned to be the kind of person who would just always be unhappy.
It’s not exaggerating at all to tell you that yoga changed my life. When I left my first yoga class, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of well-being and hope. Learning to experience life inside my body after being so completely disconnected from it gave me a new way of feeling and dealing with my mental and emotional experience. Yoga led to meditation, which has given me the tools and capacity to handle the ups and downs of life. Becoming overzealous in my yoga practice led me to find other modalities to balance, strengthen, and stabilize the mobility that comes naturally to me and which made coordination a real challenge as a kid.
All of these became tools for greater embodiment and awareness so that I could recover my innate wholeness, dignity, and joy.
I became a yoga teacher in 2012. Soon after graduating, I began seeking out ways to make my teaching more useful for more people. I recognized that much of what I had been taught was geared toward able-bodied, thin people, and that it was not an equitable practice. I became a Certified Curvy Yoga teacher under the guidance of Anna Guest-Jelley, and then a community partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition.
Not long after, I sought out treatment for my own disordered eating, and then my personal healing trauma work with a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. I became interested in teaching yoga in a more trauma-friendly way. I completed training with Hala Khouri, David Emerson of the Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga, and through Jane Clapp’s Movement for Trauma programs.
From 2013 to 2020, I ran, and then owned a yoga studio in Stuart, FL. Since then, I’ve shifted my teaching to online offerings and socially distanced private clients. I’m also fortunate to act as a personal and teaching assistant for Jane Clapp, which gives me the opportunity to continue to learn and grow as a trauma-informed practitioner.
Each trauma-informed, body-neutral session is tailored to the individual and is designed to support their wellness in a collaborative way. Our work together might include strength, mobility, meditation, or other modalities. I offer resources to handle life’s challenges, while recognizing that individual practices can only go so far within cultural systems that are inherently harmful for many. I’m committed to continuing education and critical thinking about the social justice issues inherent in contemporary wellness culture. Our self-care is incomplete if it comes at the expense of others.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
I know what it is like to experience the symptoms of trauma in my body, and how healing and restful it can be to simply be with another human who is able to hold a neutral space. It feels like a gift that I have been lucky to receive and I am happy to share with others. The techniques, practices, and resources that I have learned are often helpful and it brings me joy to see a client experiencing their own dignity, worth, self-support, and strength.
My Understanding of Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma-informed care is neutral. It makes space for a wide variety of behaviors and experiences, understanding that each of us responds differently to traumatic stress. It allows individuals to be themselves in whatever way feels safest for them. It means creating a space that is accessible and making the process, boundaries, and “expectations” very clear. It means asking for explicit content and checking in regularly to be sure that still applies. It means earning trust by behaving consistently and by repairing when harm has been done. For me, it also means consistently checking my own biases to be sure that I am as neutral as I can be with the other human. I ground within my own embodied experience so that I can hold a neutral space. Trauma-informed care means not making assumptions about what will work for another person, yet instead, inviting their collaborative curiosity (“How do you think it might be to…”). It means believing what the person says, and also, being able to read the truth in their body. It means honoring a “no.” It means teaching and coaching in a clear way that offers options with neutrality. Trauma-informed care means normalizing body and neurological diversity, respecting the pace at which each individual needs to work, and setting aside my own personal agenda.
I teach yoga, which might be a very physical practice (such as vinyasa), or a restorative, gentle one, depending on what is needed. I incorporate strength work through body weight training or steel mace (a training tool). If mobility work would be helpful, I use the techniques of Functional Range Conditioning (taught in a trauma-sensitive way).
I also use tools such as Indian Clubs, which are really soothing for the nervous system, balls, blocks, dowels, Jenga sticks, and all kinds of fun other things to explore embodiment and movement.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Trauma
I provide a neutral environment that reduces as many potential triggers as possible. I recognize that each individual requires an individual approach. I teach embodied grounding techniques to help stay present in the moment (avoiding dissociation); techniques to kindly and gently explore the experience of being within one’s body, techniques to discharge the stress response (move out of fight/flight), and techniques to disrupt the freeze response. Strength and core training can help to regain one’s sense of capacity, agency, and dignity that may be missing. Mobility and balance training can help disrupt body armoring that may be present and can also restore a greater sense of one’s ability to move in the world. These and other techniques may be useful in working with chronic pain which can accompany the survivor experience.
Modifications for Survivors
I treat all of my clients and group classes as though there is trauma present, because I assume that there is.
As an able-bodied, cis-gendered white woman, I’m working to address the biases that I hold so that I can continue to offer more accessible practices for those bodies that are treated as marginalized.
I offer sliding-scale from $50-$100 with private clients and I am open to creative offers for BIPOC, LGBTQI, and people with disabilities.