“Shelley Pentony, E-RYT 500, YACEP, received her initial Trauma Informed Yoga training with Zabie Yamasaki through Transcending Trauma through Yoga. She has also received extensive training in Ayurveda & Pranayama with Larissa Carlson, former Dean of Kripalu School of Ayurveda. Shelley received both her 200 & 300 Hour RYT certificates through Sol Yoga Studio. Over the past year, Shelley has also been studying under Monique Minahan through The Grief Practice to expand her knowledge and strengthen how she delivers trauma-informed offerings for those navigating grief. For the past four years, she has been working solely as a Trauma Skilled Yoga & Mindfulness Instructor – providing guidance and instruction around yoga, mindfulness, pranayama, and Ayurveda to individuals healing from trauma.”
About Shelley Pentony
Shelley Pentony discovered her passion for yoga over 22 years ago. After spending 17 years providing direct services and advocacy to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, she recognized a need to incorporate more body-based modalities into the healing work she was providing to her clients. With a clear awareness of the profound and rich healing benefits of yoga, combined with the belief that everything we need to heal is already within us, she shifted her work’s focus to solely offering Trauma-Informed Yoga, Mindfulness & Pranayama services to survivors of trauma.
Shelley currently works as Trauma Skilled Yoga & Meditation Practitioner at her local Child Advocacy Center, where she supports children & their families who have recently endured child abuse. She teaches weekly trauma informed yoga classes at a local studio as well as offers private and closed Yoga as Healing series for survivors of all types of trauma. Shelley is also an Integrative Medicine Practitioner at the James M Stockman Cancer Institute, an MD Anderson affiliated center, where she works both one on one and in group settings with cancer patients, survivors and their caretakers – introducing and guiding them through the healing practices of yoga.
My Experience Working with Survivors
I spent 17 years working at a comprehensive organization that served victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. During that time, I served as a hotline advocate, a full-time Crisis Worker and eventually as the organization’s Crisis Services Director – overseeing and leading a team of advocates that provided crisis intervention, advocacy and support to victims and survivors of abuse. For over ten years, I served as an Advocate at my local hospital for Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations, working collaboratively with Forensic Nurse Examiners and Detectives.
Additionally, I spent over ten years working as a National Trainer & Consultant for the Lethality Assessment Program, providing on-site education and training across the country for domestic violence hotline workers and law enforcement officers – teaching them how to identify domestic violence cases at the greatest risk for lethality and how to respond, support and safety plan with those victims.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
I feel called to work with survivors of trauma and have since I first began this work in 1999. Having the honor to hold space, listen, validate and support individuals during challenging times in their lives is truly a gift to me. I understand that when trauma happens, we have lost a sense of control and there is not much greater than learning our innate ability to tap into our own body and inner experiences to regain that control and connection. I want to show up for survivors to be a vessel for all that I have learned and experienced in the field of yoga, mindfulness, and pranayama. To offer tools to provide a greater wealth of resources that survivors can always keep within themselves and pull from whenever they need them.
Creating a non-judgmental, safe place and being a safe person for someone during their healing journey is imperative to the healing experience, which is a very important part of what I aim to create for my students in each interaction.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
To me, providing trauma informed care means honoring the lived experience of every student that I work with. It means approaching all of my interactions through an empowerment-based lens and meeting students where they are, however they are showing up. It’s creating a space that is safe for all who enter, that is full of permission and choice, that allows each student a “seat at the table” and a strong voice to speak their needs.
I teach yoga, meditation, and pranayama (breath-work). I believe that yoga is very personal and self-defined and that our practice changes each moment based on how we are feeling each day. Sometimes the practice may be very still and meditative and sometimes it may be more movement and vigorous – based on the needs and desires of the student that day. The type of yoga I teach most often is gentle, restorative and yin yoga. These practices allow students to enjoy the slower pace of the practice, which can deepen the opportunities to find greater connection to their inner self, their breath and how each posture feels and where support and modifications may be needed in their practice. I also teach vinyasa flow and hatha yoga.
There are endless pathways into practicing mindfulness and meditation, so I spend time getting to know my students to help them find a doorway into this practice that best suits them. Meditation can be done in relative stillness and/or being in movement – finding a way to discover and practice what works for each student is very important to me.
I believe pranayama (breath work) is our number one most reliable tool for finding ease and comfort in our body and mind. Helping students learn ways to breathe that can support them in challenging moments can be life changing. Breathing practices can be incredibly healing and empowering to learn and incorporate into daily life.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Trauma
In addition to teaching yoga postures, breathing practices and meditation, I spend a lot of time with each student providing education and support around the benefits and contraindications of each modality and practice. Understanding that trauma and the effects of trauma manifest and live in the body is so important. In order to heal, we have to heal as a whole person. This is where yoga and healing trauma come together so nicely and begin to introduce this more alignment based goal of feeling connected body, mind and spirit.
It’s also important to me to help my students understand the different branches of our autonomic nervous system and how we can support ourselves when we are stuck in a stressed state, as well as tools to help us work into, or closer toward, our rest and digest state. Additionally, helping students to understand the relationship between trauma and the brain is so important. Yoga, mindfulness and breathing practices support a bottom up regulation practice, which helps survivors find connection to themselves in a more integrated and accessible way. This is so valuable for times in which bringing voice to experiences may not be available or feel accessible. Ultimately, yoga helps us get to know ourselves more deeply and teaches us that we have so many tools within us to help us feel more resourced and equipped when dealing with life’s challenges and triggers.
Modifications for Survivors
Increasing safety and accessibility is very important to me. I like to make time to have a conversation with students prior to working with them to determine if they have any special requests or needs that I can support to ensure they feel safe and comfortable working with me. Listening and honoring these needs is important to the trauma informed approach. I also take much time in preparing my physical space to ensure that it feels safe from both a physical and energetic perspective. I make all sorts of props available, so students are welcome to practice however they feel most at ease and comfortable. This might be a chair, many blankets, yoga bolsters, mats, blocks, etc. If students are more comfortable coming in to see and tour the space before our first session, I like to offer that as an option as well. Sometimes having the visual of the space and getting a chance to meet me prior to our first session can make coming in feel safer and more empowering. I am also happy to offer virtual sessions if that is more comfortable and accessible for students.
I am able to offer sliding-scale spots.