“Ryann Summers is a San Francisco-based yoga teacher with a passion for the art of healing. She has a background in counseling, advocacy, and women’s health, and has worked extensively with English and Spanish-speaking survivors of sexual and domestic violence. She has been teaching yoga since 2010, when she and a colleague introduced a yoga sequence to a support group for survivors of sexual violence on Boston College’s campus. She currently teaches at Glide Yoga in San Francisco, a community-based organization striving to the break cycles of poverty and marginalization. Ryann recently completed her formal 200-hour certification through Yoga Tree in January 2014, and is registered with the Yoga Alliance. Ryann believes in the innate strength of each survivor both on and off the mat. In addition to providing survivors with healing support through yoga, she founded Healing Is An Art, a community art project displaying the creative expression of trauma survivors.”
About Ryann Summers
I received my Bachelor’s degree from Boston College in Psychology with a Clinical Concentration, and a minor in Hispanic Studies. As an undergraduate student, I founded H.E.A.L., a support group for student survivors of sexual violence, and also volunteered for domestic violence awareness, body image improvement campaigns, and Take Back The Night. Upon graduation, I worked for almost two years as a Bilingual Program Advocate, counseling and advocating for sexual assault survivors by providing one-on-one counseling, support groups, prevention in schools and universities, and legal/medical advocacy in both English and Spanish. Most recently, I founded Healing Is An Art, an online community art project celebrating the creative healing process of trauma survivors. I am committed to supporting the healing process of trauma survivors, which was one of the driving forces in completing my yoga teacher training. I am available to offer yoga in English and Spanish.
I began to take an active role in the movement to end sexual violence and support survivors while in college as the founder of a support group; this was also the space where I began to introduce yoga for healing. I have been teaching yoga informally since 2010, when I introduced yoga into the survivor’s support group at Boston College. Currently, I teach at Glide in San Francisco, a community-based organization whose mission is “to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.” The free yoga provided here is part of a resiliency program for many of San Francisco’s homeless population and adults affected by poverty and addiction. My classes are instructed in an environment that is very safe, strengths-based, and restorative. In addition to my advocacy and teaching, I also curate an online survivor’s arts forum through my organization Healing is an Art.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
I am interested in the survivor population as a healer and counselor, as I feel that holistic approaches to healing should be increasingly considered for someone dealing with the effects of trauma, and that we should move away from pathologizing and disempowering approaches to addressing trauma. As someone who has found yoga infinitely healing and transformative, I want to share this space of empowerment and mind/body/spirit connection with others. My teacher training had a full section dedicated to Yoga and Psychology, taught by Darcy Lyon, a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and founder of Heartfire Healing Arts which resonated with my intentions in connecting survivors of sexual violence to healing through yoga.
I instruct trauma-sensitive yoga classes and private sessions for survivors. I believe that somatic trauma necessitates a somatic approach to healing. Since the trauma has taken place in the body, it is important that a survivor can reintegrate their mind and body, and has tools to regain a sense of physical safety. In my group class setting, I provide a two-sided colored stone to each student, which they can flip over at any time during the class to indicate whether they wish to receive physical assists. I use this approach because it is possible that a student may change their mind for a specific pose that feels vulnerable, or as emotional states shift throughout a class. I believe that the ability to maintain control over this decision throughout the entire class, while not having to verbally communicate, gives the student a safe and comfortable environment in which to practice. In my private classes, I encourage and empower the survivor to explore which parts of their practice are healing and which are challenging. I provide pose options and modifications for stress-management and relaxation, as well as empowering and strengthening sequences.
How Yoga Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Violence
Yoga holistically addresses the impacts of sexual violence by creating a safe space for a survivor of sexual trauma to reintegrate mind and body. Yoga addresses the body, mind, and spirit of the survivor – three areas that are affected by trauma, whereas many forms of healing reach only one. Through asana practice, a survivor is often able to access a deeply meditative state, within which they can connect to their core in a spiritual way. Physically, somatic trauma is addressed with the somatic asana practice; it is important to feel safe movement of the body, to create a space for a survivor to feel strong and mindful with movement, and a gentle and safe environment. In connecting the mind and body, we seek to heal the rupture between the two that often occurs after a trauma such as disconnection and dissociation.
Modifications for Survivors
I believe that every survivor is different, and that it is important to modify my approach according to each individual situation. Although I treat every class I teach as if students were potential trauma survivors (mindful assists, safe environment, etc.), I am especially careful to be open and clear about providing options and modifications, as well as normalizing the emotional responses that may be present with the asana and meditation of yoga.
I have experience in counseling and advocacy with Spanish-speaking clients, have run sexual assault support groups at the high school and university levels, and also have a background in working with clients struggling with eating disorders, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS.
I am able to offer sliding-scale treatments.