By Suzanne Vanderhoef
The sign out front says “Complete Harmony: Yoga for Youth.” But inside, it’s not your typical yoga studio and they are not your typical yoga students. In addition to focusing on standard yoga elements involving body movement and breathing, Complete Harmony has a loftier goal, as the St. Louis area’s first trauma-informed yoga studio for youth.
“Trauma-informed yoga is a type of yoga that is an inclusive form of yoga,” explains Melissa Dierker, Owner and Founder of Complete Harmony. “So, a lot of the kids we see have experienced traumatic events in their life.”
That includes sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as the trauma kids can experience from being bullied or having their parents go through a messy divorce. Because of that, the elements in a trauma-informed class are different from those in traditional programs.
“My languaging will be different. We don’t use certain props in our classes,” says Dierker. “We don’t do certain yoga shapes also. There are certain shapes that are vulnerable due to past traumas. So, the goal of our classes is to eliminate as many triggers as possible.”
While the techniques are based in scientific research, part of the reason trauma-informed yoga is successful is that the students also learn coping skills in a safe place, while having fun. And according to the mother of one of the participants, it’s definitely working.
“She definitely has some mindfulness techniques that she’s used at home to help her calm down or work through some grief,” says Amy Estlund, parent of class member. “Like the Mala beads that she made [in class]. She’s been wearing them ever since she made them and it’s helped her go to sleep at night.”
That’s the kind of thing Melissa Dierker loves to hear. “For me, success is a kid coming in and feeling safe. Feeling that they have a space where they can explore who they are and what it means to be who they are and accept who they are and know that they’re loved and safe and accepted when they come in.”