Lana Skrypnyk: Creating a Safe Space for the LGBTQ+Community

As I write this, hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community are at their highest. A poll indicates that two-thirds of people identifying as LGBTQ+ are afraid for their safety when holding hands or displaying affection for their partners in public. 59% of all of those identifying as LGBTQ+ and 81% of those who are transgender report being called a slur in reference to their sexual and/or gender identity in the past year.

As I write this, I myself stand at a cross-roads of intersectionality. As a naturalized citizen immigrant, queer-identifying individual with several invisible disabilities, I have been afraid and anxious since 2016. I am also someone who suffers from mental health issues, including complex PTSD, and someone occupying a larger body than society deems “acceptable”. I have not always had the means to access healing spaces – such as the one that yoga can provide – for a variety of reasons, with cost and lack of representation by people looking like me at the top of the list. Unfortunately, with the Westernization of yoga and its cooptation by the fitness industry, high-end studio fees, expensive athletic clothing and equipment, and traditionally attractive, young, flexible white women on Instagram have become the norm associated with yoga. By sheer luck, I was able to get a Groupon deal to a local yoga studio that provided both diversity and a space where I felt safe enough to explore. I fell in love with yoga and decided I wanted to become a teacher in that very first class. For the first time in weeks, if not in my entire life, I was able to get out of my head for an hour, drop the persona so many of us who identify as LGBTQ+ or are “other” in some way have to keep up during the day, and just be. I wanted to provide the same experience to others like me.

This is how Healing Vibes by Lana got started. In my search for a yoga teacher training program, I was lead to K10Yoga Co-op in Winston Salem, which is where the real magic of my journey to teaching trauma-informed, body-positive, LGBTQ+ affirming, community yoga began. I felt safe to explore who I was in this space. I was encouraged to show up as my whole self, without having to hide any parts of my identity, and to love the parts of myself I couldn’t quite love, like my trauma and mental illness. Together with the guidance of my teacher, Kristen Williams, we worked through the difficult, the uncomfortable, in search for the real me. This space has been instrumental in discovering and affirming various parts of my identity, as well as in healing and bettering my mental and physical health. I do not exaggerate when I say that this practice, in an intentional safe-space environment, saved my life. I also had the privilege of connecting with other accepting and like-minded individuals, and ended up attending a queer yoga class in Durham with Patty of Liberation Healing Arts. Being in an environment with others like me, celebrating our identities, acknowledging all the realities of what this means in today’s society, and finding strength in community as we navigate these challenges together, have been crucial for my well-being, me growing comfortable in my identity, and eventually coming out. This is the journey that led to me choosing to share myself radically, vulnerably, and honestly with all of you and the rest of the world, in order to help others find this magic: this radical healing I have found through a safe, affirming space.

Studies show that having just one supportive adult in an LGBTQ+ youth’s life source can dramatically reduce suicide rates among this population. At Healing Vibes, I strive to create an accepting and safe space for all those 14 years of age and up. Most of my classes are set up on a sliding scale, pay what you can basis, and are mostly run in community centers, particularly the Rainbow Yoga classes designed specifically for those who identify anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. When students attend my classes, they can expect to have their identity not only 100% affirmed, but celebrated. My intake forms ask your name and pronouns, regardless of whether they match your legal identification documents. When you enter the space, you will be greeted warmly and kindly, and you will see other people who look like you, including your instructor: a visibly queer, size 12-14 individual. I will encourage you to explore your inner world along with connecting to your body, at your own pace. I will offer the use of props to help make the asana feel good and safe in your body. I will use inclusive language and a trauma-informed approach.

According to the American Psychological Association, LGBTQ+ individuals experience trauma and mental health issues at much higher rates than the rest of the population. In my class, I will walk beside you on your healing journey. As someone who both has the diagnoses and the privilege to access resources such as therapy, medications, and yoga for healing, I know what my students may be going through, and how inaccessible these resources may be for them. However, my class will always be a safe place they can access anytime they wish.

In today’s political and societal climate, safe spaces for those of us who experience marginalization in any way due to our identities sadly seem to be more of a privilege than a right, and are not guaranteed. As LGBTQ+ identifying folks, we live with anxiety and trauma just for being who we are and loving who we love, not just in the world at large, but oftentimes within our own families of origin. Among all this uncertainty, fear, and lack of acceptance we experience as queer folks, I strive to provide a safe place guaranteed to accept you with open arms exactly as you are. Bring your whole self, stay as long as you need, and know you can always come home to yourself on your yoga mat, and I will be right here holding space for you. You are not alone, and we will walk this path to healing, self-love, acceptance, wellness, and anything in-between together. Our liberation is bound to creating community and collective healing, and I am here to serve as a guide and facilitator as you discover what that means for you – what healing, identity, and liberation can look like in your life.

Sometimes, all we need is for someone to hold space for us and invite us to show up and be seen and loved exactly as we are.  I welcome you in.

Namaste,

Lana

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