Maggie Cohen is a 500-hour certified Vinyasa yoga instructor with years of experience in trauma-sensitive yoga instruction. She is deeply passionate about providing yoga as a tool to meet survivors of trauma where they are, and aims to create an environment of healing and empowerment. She has a BA in American Studies from Wesleyan University and will receive her LMSW from Silberman School of Social Work in New York City in June 2016. Additionally, she is studying Integrated Movement Therapy, a holistic form of therapy that emphasizes partnership, holism and potential for change.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website: http://www.maggiecohenyoga.com | Phone: 770-634-5232 | Practice Location: Brooklyn, NY
About Maggie Cohen
For the past six years, I have specialized in integrative approaches to healing trauma. I primarily work with survivors of childhood and adult sexual trauma, however, I have also partnered with people suffering other expressions of trauma. I strive to bring a macro perspective to my practice, and I include systemic forces such as racism and sexism in my understanding of trauma. I have worked with survivors in many capacities: as a clinical social worker, as a yoga therapist and as an organizer for survivors’ rights to fair adjudication. I identify as a survivor of sexual violence, and I have used the tools of yoga to aid in my healing process.
My journey as an anti-violence activist began several years ago at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut during which time I served as the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Intern. In this position, I provided outreach, education, and direct counseling to students who were survivors of sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. After graduating, I worked as a Project Assistant at Sanctuary for Families, the largest provider of services to survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking in New York. In November 2012, I immediately enrolled in the Trauma Sensitive Yoga Instruction Training at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health with Dave Emerson, Bessel Van der Kolk and Jenn Turner and I completed my 500-hour advanced level of yoga teaching in 2013. You can learn more about my work supporting trauma survivors through the practice of yoga in my interview with the Huffington Post, Yoga: How We Serve Survivors of Violence and Toxic Stress.
My Interest in Working with Survivors of Sexual Violence
Why do I want to work with this population? When I really ask myself, the answer is simple. I am unceasingly compelled. I am angry. I am devastated. Sometimes I cannot believe the world we live in: the victim blaming, ignorance, endorsed violence, inequity and silence. I am driven by a desire to heal. While I know that I will not singlehandedly end sexual violence, nor do I believe I will live to see its end – I am inspired to prevent, intervene and respond when and where I can. I must. We must.
My primary treatment modality is yoga – physical movement, breath and meditation. On the most basic level, yoga means “to yoke,” and in this practice we attempt to yoke the mind and body to reach the spirit. While I believe that yoga has the potential to serve survivors cognitively, emotionally and energetically, I also aim to meet my students’ core needs with yoga, rather than to teach yoga and hope that that yoga meets their needs. That said, there are a few key things that yoga can offer for survivors of sexual violence:
- Empowerment: students explore the strength of their own bodies and breath, as well as the beauty of honoring their own limitations or edges.
- Choice: in my classes, I emphasize individual choice through modifications, pace, and the language of choice. The emphasis on choice encourages students to empower and listen to their inner voices on and off the mat.
- Explore the present moment: not only is time distorted for many survivors, but it may also be scary to rest in the present given intrusive memories, anxiety or physical discomfort. Yoga offers a way to approach the present moment gently, especially if we present postures in concrete time frames.
- Boundaries: students may learn to set boundaries by resting when it is necessary, or simply understanding that their mat is their space. Concretely, this may mean that students begin to do what they actually want to do in their practice rather than acting because they crave connection or are aiming to please.
- Empower self-love: with empowerment, strength, and boundary-setting, we encourage students to love themselves wherever they are and to acknowledge then let go of the voice of shame. Concretely, this may mean that students begin to do what they actually want to do rather than acting because they crave connection or are aiming to please.
- Yoga relieves physical discomfort, which can come from the wear of life, or from emotional wounds of trauma.
Modifications for Survivors
My treatment modalities include trauma-sensitive yoga, social work and elements of Integrated Movement Therapy (IMT). My practice incorporates invitational language, emphasizes choice and setting boundaries, motivation balanced with restoration and an authentic relationship between my students and myself. I am attentive to trauma, and I adjust aspects of individual and group sessions – for example, I don’t assume that I can physically touch my students. I also believe that survivors are people, and that each person has unique preferences that we can discuss and modify together.
Additional Areas of Expertise/Interest
I have experience with folks who are realizing the effects of sexual assault and childhood abuse. I have worked with people arrested for charges of prostitution/sex work and undocumented folks living in the United States. Currently, I specialize in working with children who have incarcerated or formerly incarcerated parents and face domestic violence, poverty and systemic racism. I also have experience with addressing issues of faith that arise from traumatic experiences. I also speak Spanish
I accept sliding-scale on an individual basis.