It’s not your typical yoga session
- By Memory McLeod | March 24, 2023
It all begins with a circle.
It is prayer.
It is ceremony.
It is how Shyla Gaebel chooses to deliver her trauma-informed yoga class at the Mamaweyatitan Centre in North Central Regina.
Every second week, a group of women sit in the lotus position surrounded by the gentle glow of candlelight, while a smudge is passed from mat to mat before they begin a co-ordinated series of yoga positions with everyone breathing in unison.
“Participants have the option to choose what feels best,” said Gaebel. “It means being held in a good way. It’s about creating a safe place to explore feelings of vulnerability. We offer the sage-only smudge in case someone is on their moon time.”
The class is designed to be a gentle welcome for participants to move and explore their range of flexibility and to take some time to themselves.
“It’s like being in a safe container,” said Gaebel. “The lights are lowered and I will sometimes move about the room a bit, but there is a respect for space. Letting them explore without worrying about whether or not they are doing it right. It’s the energy in the room, greeting them saying, ‘I see you; I hear you.’”
She ends each session with a sharing circle and reminds everyone the breathing and movement is the focus.
Gaebel said the class developed organically while she was on her own journey of self-discovery and wellness.
She has traced her paternal roots to the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation in Manitoba. While she was learning more about herself and her family lineage, she also began yoga training.
By coincidence, there were some women from her father’s First Nation taking the same class, which Gaebel took as a positive sign she was on the right path in life.
Once certified, she began teaching classes to groups and was approached by an Indigenous client to bring her style of trauma-informed yoga to her staff.
It was the first time Gaebel led a room full of Indigenous people and it was then she knew she wanted to create an accessible wellness program for urban Indigenous people.
“There are so many factors that can create barriers to participating in public programs like this,” said Gaebel. “Some can’t afford to take a yoga class. So it was important for me to create something for Indigenous people where they can just show up and Creator takes the lead.”
Finding a class aimed at community wellness is important to long-time North Central Regina resident Jacqueline Thompson.
She wasn’t expecting to find such a deep connection and the healing she experienced in Gaebel’s class.
“While smudging and doing breath work, Shyla was softly playing the hand drum and that sound combined with the practice and the atmosphere caused something in me to lift,” said Thompson. “Burdens lifted and the air was clear. It recentered and realigned my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual selves.”
She said, for her, trauma-informed care includes prayer and recognition of a higher power and that’s what sets Gaebel’s class apart from other yoga classes.
“It changes the way I am carrying that trauma for that day or week,” said Thompson. “We are better to ourselves and our family and that makes it ceremony.”
All Nations Hope Network also hosts Yoga with Shyla as part of their MMIWG2S+ Healing and Strengthening Indigenous Sisters and 2 Spirit’s Yoga classes and workshops.
For more information on classes, go to “Yoga with Shyla” on Facebook.