This week’s interview is with Sandra Palmer.
Sandra is a Yoga teacher and psychologist who teaches trauma informed Yoga on our 200 hour Teacher training. She graduated from Contemporary Yoga 300 hour training in 2015 and continues to grow her embodied practice to share with clients and students.
In this interview, Sandra shares her journey with cancer, offering personal insight into how Yoga supports and nourishes her, and she also talks about the ways in which Yoga’s embodied approach has become part of her therapeutic practice supporting those who’ve experienced sexual trauma.
Contemporary Yoga (CY): Why do you practice Yoga?
Sandra: I initially started to practice Yoga as a way to find calm, stillness and balance in my life. I am by default a Type A personality and very busy. Yoga (including both asana, meditation and pranayama) help me slow down, and find space in my life and my body-mind.
More recently I have been practicing Yoga to support my journey with cancer and cancer treatment. I feel so blessed to have all my Yoga tools already in place to support this challenging journey. Yoga asana has supported me to:
- Feel into my body, sensing into where I have cancer, in a truly embodied way - I sense into my body parts to bring consciousness and health to those parts
- Keep moving gently even on the days post chemotherapy when I simply don’t have the energy to do anything.
- Maintain muscle mass with stronger practices as I feel able
- Rest and heal using Restorative Yoga
Meditation and pranayama help to reduce nausea from the treatments; support me in staying in my parasympathetic nervous system, which enhances immune function and reduces inflammation; and also help me maintain perspective and spaciousness around this challenging journey.
CY: Why did you decide to become a Yoga teacher?
Sandra: I decided to complete my Yoga teacher training in 2015. I have been working as a psychologist for the past 30 odd years and much of that work was focused on supporting those who had experienced sexual trauma.
I realised that the most effective therapy worked with both the body and mind (and spirituality). I did the Yoga training so I could do this effectively and knowledgeably. As Bessel van der Kolk says, “The Body Keeps the Score”.
CY: As a Yoga teacher, I am most excited to share …
Sandra: Trauma informed practices related to my lived experience with cancer. I have been using certain practices for my own healing and have started to offer these to others with cancer (or other long-term health conditions) via my online shala.
One offering has been a semi-regular blog about my very human experience of cancer and its treatment. The focus of this blog has been the use of body-mind practices to support me.
Another recent offering is practices which bring a focus on enhancing lymphatic flow for both those living with cancer (or other long term health conditions), or those simply wanting to enhance immune functioning. We can help lymphatic fluid flow more easily and freely through the lymph system by adding and releasing pressure to areas where there are lymph nodes, deep breathing and by using self-lymphatic massage.
I am currently completing a training specifically aimed at teaching Yoga for those living with cancer and look forward to what I can offer after that.
The most rewarding aspect of being a yoga teacher is …
Being able to offer therapeutic Yoga to those who would not usually be able to access it due to financial, emotional, psychological or physical barriers. For the past seven years, I have been teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga and iRest Meditation and Mindfulness courses to those with a sexual trauma history. This is an adjunct treatment to talking therapy and funded by ACC Sensitive Claims.
It is rewarding to see the glimmers of embodiment in those for whom the body may not feel safe and where survival has meant overriding or ignoring the messages the body is sending. I love to see people start to notice their body and to be able to move it with choice and agency, and then to even start befriending the body and liking it. I believe we all have a right to embodiment and my joy comes from seeing people move towards that.
I look forward to offering yoga for cancer practices too – another place where trauma informed yoga is perfect as the cancer world is one where a lot of choice and agency is taken away.
Since completing my CY teacher training, I have …
… dived deep into multiple other trainings, all with a focus on supporting health and healing holistically. These trainings include:
- iRest -Yoga Nidra Meditation certification
- Lymphatics and Yoga training (Yoga Medicine)
- Somatic Stress Release ™ (Dr Scott Lyons)
- Yin Yoga training (in the Embodied Flow style with Dr Scott Lyons and Rise Yoga)
- Restorative Movement Psychotherapy (Polyvagal Informed Dance Movement Therapy) with Amber Gray
- 300-hour Contemporary Yoga Teacher training
- 200-hour Embodied Flow Teacher training with Rise Yoga
- Trauma Centre Trauma Sensitive Yoga training
I have also:
- Created an online Shala offering trauma informed healing practices.
- Been teaching 8-week Trauma Sensitive Yoga and iRest Meditation and Mindfulness courses as well as 1 day Embodied Self Care retreats all funded by ACC Sensitive Claims.
- Taught Restorative Yoga classes at studios in Auckland.
- Co-created and taught a Trauma Informed and Community Yoga teacher training (60 hours) with Rise Yoga.
Contact details for Sandra Palmer: