Using yoga to heal complex trauma

In 2001, Ginny and Kerry Dennehy received the heartbreaking news: their son Kelty had committed suicide.

  • Dec. 11, 2015 12:00 p.m.

— Kevin Underhill

In 2001, Ginny and Kerry Dennehy received the heartbreaking news: their son Kelty had committed suicide. The tragic loss led Ginny and Kerry to start the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, which is dedicated to providing mental health resources to youth.

Eight years later, the Dennehy parents went through another tragic loss. Their 23-year-old daughter Riley suffered a heart attack while in Thailand. Ginny said that Riley was finally making progress to overcoming the grief of losing her brother when tragedy struck.

“After losing a sibling, Riley was lost and didn’t know where to turn,” Ginny said. “She struggled with an eating disorder and addiction as she tried to soothe her pain but then she found yoga and she really blossomed into the beautiful person she could be.”

Riley discovered the therapeutic powers of yoga and was in Thailand furthering her yoga studies when she died. Ginny herself turned to yoga as a therapeutic exercise following Riley’s passing and in her daughter’s name, set up the Breathe Fore Life Scholarship in 2013. The $1,000 scholarship is given each year to a yoga teacher who is furthering their training to help those suffering from trauma or grief. Ginny, who makes the final decision, said the winner always makes her think of her daughter.

“I don’t know how it happens, but the winner somehow reminds me of Riley in how they are really looking to make a difference,” Ginny said.

Nicole Marcia, a Vancouver-based private yoga instructor, specializes in teaching yoga to people going through addiction and trauma. She said yoga therapy is a good complement to other types of therapy because it focuses on the mind and the body.

“People want to be able to feel safe in their own body,” Marcia said. “As a yoga therapist, I don’t really do talk-therapy but yoga is most effective when it’s combined.”

Marcia will be leading a session on trauma informed theories and techniques at the fourth annual Victoria Yoga Conference Feb. 5 to 7. She is excited for the event because of Victoria’s welcoming yoga community.

“Sometimes yoga can feel like it’s only for certain people,” Marcia said. “At the Victoria Yoga Conference, there is something for everyone and that’s what I love about it.”

The deadline to apply for the scholarship is Dec. 15. The winner will be announced conference held at the Victoria Conference Centre.