Survivors on the Yoga Mat

An inspiring collection of essays that reveal the healing power of yoga, Survivors on the Yoga Mat is an ideal companion for trauma survivors and yoga teachers alike. Weaving together stories from her classes, travels, and workshops, author Becky Thompson shows the brave and unique ways that survivors approach yoga: the creative ways that they practice, the challenges they face, and the transformative experiences they discover. Thompson skillfully draws connections between yoga and social-justice activism, demonstrating how a trauma-sensitive approach to yoga makes room for all of us—across race, class, gender, religion and nationality.

 Survivors on the Yoga Mat offers stories, reflections, and meditations for people who are healing from a wide range of traumas—sexual abuse, accidents, child abuse, war, illnesses, incarceration, and other injuries. The book consists of 90 true stories—alternately funny, surprising, and irreverent—that together provide a roadmap for survivors on their journey to wholeness. Organized into six sections, the book explores the challenges of beginning a yoga practice; the unique strengths of trauma survivors; the circuitous path of healing; yoga’s value as a lifelong practice; the special role of teachers; and the potential of yoga as an avenue for activism. Also included is a description of Pantajali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, a list of resources, an appendix explaining the different styles of yoga, and a beautiful photo glossary with over 100 photos of the yoga postures mentioned in the book.

Praise for Survivors on the Yoga Mat

“This stunning collection of stories, including many of Becky Thompson’s own, reveals the emancipatory possibilities of yoga, but also reminds us that without deep, abiding practices of self care, there can be no radical social transformation.”
Angela Davis, Activist, yogi, and author of Women, Race, and Class and The Meaning of Freedom
“A truly inspiring, informative, and important book! It is not one day too soon to address the subject of trauma with yoga teachers and practitioners. The process of meeting oneself at ever-deeper levels requires us to listen and follow our inner voice, taking courage to dive into our own personal journey through our practice. It means meeting and befriending our past traumas long buried in the very cells and tissues of our bodies. Becky Thompson shows us how to do this with sensitivity, clarity, and heart, demonstrating how asana, breath-work, and meditation are helping trauma survivors recover their power, their boundaries, and their joy in living fully and creatively.”
Angela Farmer, World-renowned yoga teacher
“Yoga is for every body—young and old, Black as well as white. In this lovingly rendered book, Becky Thompson shows us that there are no limitations on who needs this ancient healing art and who can benefit from it.”
Jan Willis, Author of Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist and Buddhist—One Woman's Spiritual Journey

Survivors On the Mat gives voice to those who, despite overwhelming odds, are choosing to return to Source moment by moment, breath by breath. These are stories of liberation in the deepest sense from extraordinary “ordinary” folks who are using the ancient technology of yoga to transform their inner landscapes and step more fully and courageously into their lives.”

Keval Kaur Khalsa, Associate Professor of the Practice of Dance & Theater Studies and Director of the Dance Program at Duke University, North Carolina Regional Coordinator, Y.O.G.A. for Youth

“Written in the voice of a poet and trauma survivor, this thoughtful, lyrical book offers support, hope and infinite understanding to those for whom it is no longer safe to live in a body and to those who patiently love and serve them. Becky Thompson’s wisdom and compassion as a yoga teacher and poet is informed by her own healing on the yoga mat. After many years of therapy, when she stepped on a sticky mat, she reclaimed her body’s right to be here. Through the lyrical language of self-awareness, Thompson takes us beyond words and the stories we tell ourselves about our lives to a deep understanding of our ultimate wholeness.”

Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression