Caroline Mastreani has been practicing and teaching yoga for over ten years.

Most recently, she has founded Flow Yoga, where a trauma-sensitive yoga class is taught once a week.

She first began exploring the idea while working as programmes and projects coordinator at Refugee Trauma Recovery (RTR), a service that supports former refugees who have suffered trauma. RTR joined New Zealand Red Cross at the beginning of this year.

With managerial support, she researched trauma-sensitive yoga overseas, attended training sessions, and developed an appropriate programme for RTR.

After gaining approval and enough funding for a six-month trial period—within which Caroline could provide weekly classes free of charge—classes began at the end of last year.

Former refugees from several different countries and cultures attend the classes for very similar reasons, namely, to aid recovery from the traumatic events that led them to New Zealand in the first place.

Clients were asked to fill out a questionnaire at the beginning of the course, which showed that their biggest areas of concern were anxiety, sleeplessness, physical pain, and shortness of breath.

Caroline has tailored her teaching-style to these areas of concern and is deliberately slow and mindful.

“The challenge for those living with trauma is to live in the present - to shift their orientation from the trauma to the now," she says. 

"Trauma-sensitive yoga aims to do just that - bring practitioners into the present moment through sensory experiences of breathing and physical sensations in the body. And through regular practice, participants increase their body awareness and thereby learn to release tension, reduce and control fear and arousal, and tolerate sensation."

The feedback from clients, many of whom have been referred to Caroline through RTR, has been positive.

“Each time I’m better than last time,” one of them says.

“I had a lot of pain in my body, but with each class it gets better.”

How to help

You can support refugee resettlement in New Zealand by becoming a refugee support volunteer in one of our resettlement locations or, if you're an employer with an available position, you can employ a former refugee. Our Pathways to Employment team works with refugee-background jobseekers who have a wide variety of skills and are ready to start work now.