“Ryann Summers is a trauma-informed yoga teacher based in San Francisco, CA. Her background is in counseling and advocacy for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. She teaches private sessions, workshops, and teacher trainings, with a mission to create a safe and supportive environment for embodied movement. Ryann believes trauma-informed yoga is all about choice.”
About Ryann Summers
Ryann Summers is a San Francisco-based trauma-informed yoga teacher. She’s been teaching yoga since 2010, began her formal yoga training through Yoga Tree in 2014, and completed her E-RYT 500 in 2017. Ryann has studied trauma-informed teaching with Molly Boeder Harris, Zabie Yamasaki, Leigh Ferrara, Lisa Danylchuk, and David Emerson, in addition to prenatal yoga training from Jane Austin of Mama Tree. Ryann currently teaches private trauma-informed yoga out of Studio 20, and regularly holds workshops and teacher trainings at Thriveability Yoga. She also teaches the Yoga as Healing series for campus survivors of sexual assault at UCSF/USF.
I’ve been learning from and working with trauma survivors for over 10 years. My more formal introduction to trauma healing started in 2010, when I co-founded Boston College’s first support group for campus survivors of sexual assault with Dr. Elizabeth Rhodes. Alongside her, I also volunteered on Boston College’s on campus hotline resource for sexual assault survivors, SANet. From 2011-2013, I worked as a Spanish-language counselor and advocate at a community-based domestic violence center, providing one-on-one counseling, immigration clinic translation, hotline crisis intervention, prevention and education, as well as medical and legal advocacy. While our services at this community center didn’t address the physical body, it was in this environment that I began to notice the patterns of constricted breath, hypervigilance, tension, and other manifestations of trauma in the body.
I moved from Boston to San Francisco in 2014 for a yoga training immersion, in an effort to better understand functional and healing movement. From there, I slowly started integrating the worlds of trauma counseling and embodied movement. I worked one-on-one with clients, offered workshops focused on the emotional body, and eventually went on to pilot UCSF/USF’s first “Yoga as Healing” 8-week program for survivors of sexual violence. Everything I’ve learned along the way has been from my students, peers, and my own practice, as well as the mentorship and guidance of healers like Molly Boeder Harris and Zabie Yamasaki. In 2019, I held my first yoga teacher training to support other teachers in creating trauma-informed spaces for their students.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
The body holds so much wisdom–physically, emotionally, mentally, and energetically. It’s my mission to hold nonjudgmental and compassionate spaces where individuals feel empowered to move with curiosity and tenderness towards themselves. There’s a lot out there that tells us we “should” do a certain thing, feel a certain way, or heal a certain way. I’m interested in creating the space free from “shoulds” that invites a range of unique experiences. There’s no wrong way to feel or move.
I teach trauma-sensitive yoga classes and private sessions. I believe in the power of somatic approaches to healing trauma. When trauma memory is stored in the physical body, in the form of injury, tension, breath patterning, or loss of integration, movement and breath practices can help. I tend towards gentler styles of yoga, like restorative, yin, breath work, and functional movement. But my approach differs for each person, and is led by the student I’m working with. My trauma-informed approach is all about options.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Trauma
Yoga creates the possibility for a safe space to explore mind and body integration. Movement and breath practices can impact the body, mind, and spirit of the survivor – three areas that are often affected by trauma. Through breath and movement practices, survivors may find they can access their physical and emotional bodies in a safe and nonjudgmental way.
Modifications for Survivors
Each survivor is different. Everything is optional. A few examples: eyes can be open or closed, each pose has options (one option is always to opt out), physical assists are optional, a student can leave the room at any time, can use props or practice without, and there are always modifications for accessibility and comfort in different shapes. I offer these options in all public classes and workshops, not only for offerings that are specifically trauma-sensitive. We all hold memories in our bodies, and we could all benefit from permission to make personal choices about our movement and breath.
In addition to my movement-based work, I’m also a writer with a focus on mental health and women’s reproductive health.
I offer needs-based sliding-scale treatments.