Hannah Cohen completed her 200-hour training at Yoga Vida and continued to study under the guidance of Cat Acquaviva. She is trauma-informed yoga teacher, who has studied with Jenn Turner of the Trauma Center and Lisa Danylchuk. Hannah recognizes the power of the body to articulate things the brain cannot and the power of yoga to offer a medium for expression and release. She is a patient, perceptive teacher, who allows space for students to explore sensation, meditate in movement and stillness, and stand in their own experience. She offers challenging, thoughtful classes, which focus on structure with choice.
What do you do best?
As a yoga teacher, practicing patience and non-judgment is what I do best. I teach and practice yoga as a moving meditation. In Waking Up to the Dark, Clark Strand describes meditation (or prayer) as a way for humans “to cultivate darkness, that sort of space where their mind isn’t a slave to calculated thinking or to the culture, where the body can be at peace and the mind can retreat within itself.” This is NOT an easy task. In order to achieve the space and quiet our yoga practice can cultivate, you have to get comfortable with your own suffering. Sometimes yoga is uncomfortable and it requires patience and non-judgment to lean into the discomfort, so you can create space internally and find the ease, sweetness and peace yoga can offer. I allow space for students to explore sensation, meditate in movement and stillness, listen to their own interior compass and stand in their own experience.
What makes you the best?
My experience as a clinical social worker and training as a trauma-informed yoga teacher set me apart from other teachers. I am drawn to teach yoga because I want to care for people and I want to teach something I care about. I understand, both personally and professionally, how yoga can heal. Healing often leaves us feeling raw and vulnerable. I hold a safe, welcoming space for individuals to explore yoga as a healing practice.
To heal through yoga, we recognize our habits and let go of those that don’t serve us. In this way, healing is a disturbance of our routine and of the status quo. We all carry around internal injuries, in addition to physical injuries, which require excavation and yoga is one excavation tool. Healing and growth do not come from simply having experiences, but rather from reflecting on those experiences. Yoga cultivates our ability to reflect and excavate. As a social worker, I know there are only two kinds of skills: skills for holding up walls and skills for taking them down. Yoga cultivates the latter. When we learn how to listen to our own breath and create space in our own body, we allow the walls that separate us from each other and ourselves – walls we’ve internalized from our culture and our experiences – to fall away. I hold space, as a yoga teacher, for this healing and subversion.
What are your aspirations?
I aspire to continue connecting my work as a yoga teacher with my social work practice. I would like to continue working with people who experience trauma responses. My approach to healing trauma is to explore not only how the trauma narrative is communicated, but also how the trauma is carried in the body. Society often pathologizes certain behaviors or thoughts as “maladaptive” when they might be better understood as resilient and creative ways for individuals to survive their environment. Yoga focuses on moving the body efficiently, which may help those who are locked into body patterns that feel protective, but do not allow the individual to relax or no longer serve them. I hope to continue helping people talk through and move through the difficult experiences they carry.
My biggest success is definitely graduating from my two-year masters in social work program while working, teaching yoga, and practicing self-care (because that isn’t optional!)
Most Challenging Moment?
My on-going biggest challenge is finding ways to decolonize my yoga teaching and practice. I read an article by Susanna Barktai, which spoke to me: “Yoga is not now, nor has it ever been, a practice aimed at physical mastery for its own sake. Nor is it a practice aimed at ‘stress reduction’ so we can function as better producers and consumers in a capitalist society.” I believe cultural exchange is possible and critical, but only if we’re able to interrogate the power dynamics at play and possibility for cultural appropriation. Yoga is about meditation and liberation! It should be available to everyone. Yoga also has emotional and physical benefits for individuals of different spiritual belief, including non-belief – people who ascribe to the philosophy of yoga and those who don’t or who don’t know anything about it. As a yoga teacher, I am always learning more about the roots of yoga practice and philosophy, practicing authenticity in what I am able to offer students, and making my classes accessible and welcoming to everyone.
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.
Favorite People/Role Models?
Cat Acquaviva was my mentor when I was new to teaching – her kindness, joyfulness and stillness brought me to my mat. Her teachings and friendship continue to shape my own teaching and my life.
I have fixer-upper cabin on a lake outside the city and I escape there as often as I can!
My all-time favorite product is the Serenity body, room + linen spray by Sacred Vibes Apothecary in Brooklyn – I spray it on everything: my clothes, my bed, my dog, etc.
I am very passionate about animals – I have 3 cats, a dog and I’ve been eyeing a stray cat I’ve been seeing around.