“Merril Doty is a trauma-informed Yoga practitioner, Reiki master, dancing artist and sex and consent educator, with over 15 years of teaching experience.”
About Merril Doty
She received her 200-hour RYT Yoga training in 2015 through Yoga Loft with Jill Jerome and Liza McCormick, kids yoga training with OM Slice Yoga’s Cassi Stuckman, and trauma-informed training in 2016 with Molly Boeder Harris. In 2019, she began her Reiki training, and completed certification through the Master level with Nicole Perez. Merril is also a trained volunteer sex-educator through the Our Whole Lives (OWL) program. Merril has an eclectic background that includes teaching grandparents Humphrey Technique, performing at Renaissance Faires, and leading sexual health workshops at conferences, which fuels her belief that yoga, creative movement, and social/political engagement are not irreconcilable entities, but are actually deeply entwined.
My Experience Working with Survivors of Sexual Trauma
I have worked with yoga and dance students of various ages who have experienced sexual violence, as well as customers while I was working at a sex toy store who disclosed a variety of traumatic stories or dissociative behaviors as a result of their relationship with their bodies and previous sexual experiences.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
After the #MeToo movement began, I really felt called to help heal the traumatic sacral wounding that we as a society and species have been dealing with for generations, but has finally become unearthed from its suppressed state. As a result, I wanted to be a resource for people to talk openly and address the presence or absence of connection with their sacral, sexual, sensual bodies in a safe and healing way.
My Understanding of Trauma-Informed Care
I believe in avoiding assumptions. Throughout my life, a lot of assumptions have historically been made about me and left me feeling helpless or powerless. I believe that trauma-informed care is about meeting people where they are at, letting them present themselves as they need to in the moment, and supporting them on their journey of healing themselves. I’m merely a facilitator and a form of support in that process.
All of the embodied practices I do focus on the breath, and connecting with any tactile or sensuous experiences of the body. I also give plenty of room and space for answering questions, processing the previous activity, and moving on with consent and compassion. In my yoga teaching, I lead the class through a slowly flowing or restorative practice during which I talk a lot about feeling the support of the mat below, resting the hands on the body and enjoy feeling the warmth of the hands and sense of self-support. I allow for gentle movement, strength building, while also leaving a lot of space to breathe, process, and restore in restful poses.
In my dance teaching, the Humphrey technique is from the 1930s, and is based on the physical principal of “fall and recovery”, the body’s natural inclination to fall away and come back to the center. It is heavily focused on the body’s natural breath-rhythm, so the dancer has the agency to change how they move by how they breathe.
In my Reiki practice, which is a form of hands-on or hovering over the body of the client to facilitate energy healing. I allow time in the beginning to talk with my clients about whatever is on their mind, and how their body is feeling. I offer to either have my hands rest gently on their bodies, or to hover above them without any contact. I ask them if there is anywhere they absolutely don’t want me to touch, other than respectfully avoiding intimate areas. I also allow for some processing time afterwards if they have anything they want to share about their experience.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Violence + Trauma
I really believe that healing from trauma requires a feeling of reclaiming agency without feeling alone or abandoned. I do my best to provide support for my clients while always giving them the agency and access to decide what they want and need out of our time together so they never feel like their healing process is out of their control or reach.
Modifications for Survivors
I have clients and students with various physical disabilities as well as emotional or physiological conditions that require some creative adjustment to the lesson plan, treatment, exercise, or sequence. I am always happy to accommodate and get to the core purpose of any pose, position, or movement so the same desired benefit can be reached while accommodating the needs of the student/client.
Additional Areas of Expertise
As stated above, I have experience with clients with physical and psychological conditions and have adjusted my services in the moment or ahead of time accordingly. I am also a bisexual cis-gender woman, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I can say a lot of us have a great deal of trauma from various sources and it’s incredibly challenging to find safe spaces to practice and heal. I was actually the most reluctant to come out in embodied spaces, even and especially the ones in which I worked, for fear of being a threat to the other women and femme-identified folks in the room.
I have worked with clients and friends who would otherwise feel unsafe to practice Yoga or dance or receive Reiki in “average” studio spaces, so I’ve hosted private sessions in my home, in other’s homes, hosted workshops in sex stores, and even rented as energetically “neutral” spaces as I could find for people to feel safe to show up.
My Reiki master offers sliding-scale, and if she hadn’t, I would not have been able to receive care, so I also offer sliding scale rates.