TW: Sexual Violence
Welcome back to the Coming Out Happy blog! We have an extra special guest today, and we’re really excited to introduce you to her because she is our sponsor for our yoga mats at our retreat. Tori Morrison started Yoga4Good, a company offering eco-friendly natural yoga mats in San Diego, CA, and surrounding areas. Committed to giving back, a portion of their hemp yoga mat sales are donated to Center for Community Solutions, a San Diego-based organization committed to ending relationship and sexual violence by being a catalyst for caring communities and social justice.
Tell us more about Yoga4Good. What should our listeners know about the company?
“I have been a yoga teacher for many years. Before that, I was a yoga student. Yoga was one thing that grabbed onto my heart and just wouldn't let go. It's something that I'm incredibly passionate about, and the idea for creating a yoga mat actually happened during a pretty dark time in my life. If there are any readers that are triggered by sexual violence or would prefer not read this part, I understand. I also have the National Sexual Assault hotline number on hand, and that number is 1-800-656-4673 and they're open 24/7.
I was actually assaulted by my best guy friend a year before I started Yoga4Good. I felt like I didn't want that experience to define me, and I also didn't want it to stay in my body. I sought out somatic healing and somatic therapy, and I also came to the realization that the best way for me to make light of this really dark experience would be to create a company that would not only help me heal and share my story, but also help other people heal and share their stories, too. The name ‘Yoga4Good’ actually came to me in a dream!
I lived in China for almost two years when I was 21, so I was able to contact some of my colleagues over there to find a manufacturing company that aligned with my values. Then, I launched a yoga mat company by myself. I didn't know anything about e-commerce, so I had to teach myself about Shopify. Basically, I called this company in China and gave them 1000s of dollars and went, ‘Well, this is what I would like my yoga mats to look like. Please use eco-friendly materials.’ So there was a lot of trust put into that process, and they came out really beautifully.
We give a portion of our profits to a company here in San Diego called Center for Community Solutions. They're all about helping victims of sexual assault and preventing sexual assault from happening. They do legal counseling, and they offer mental health care counseling and prevention education to people as well.”
Tori transformed this painful, awful experience to give back. This touched us so deeply, and we’re moved to see the effects of her work in our own community. When we can do something that has a domino effect and impacts so many other people, you change the world. Even just doing the somatic healing, you impact so many people by pouring into this version of yourself. So for anyone reading right now, don't forget that.
How has your work with Yoga4Good impacted the overall community?
“It's been wonderful to share this story because I've had a lot of female friends come forward and talk about their experiences with sexual assault, and it has been really powerful. This sisterhood has created a group of girlfriends I really love here in San Diego. This yoga mat company has my heart, and, while I am using my own money for everything, I'm still able to give back in a way that is really transformative.
I really like to also donate yoga mats to people who either can't afford them or who have gone through a sexual assault experience and want to find themselves again through somatics or yoga. I've given yoga mats to BIPOC yoga studios that are just starting out in San Diego, and I've given mats to organizations that teach yoga to at-risk youth. I also currently offer yoga sessions to anybody who has been through something traumatic like a sexual assault on a sliding scale or at no cost. Those are by request only because there's only one of me, but I do offer those sessions if anybody reading this is feeling called to do yoga again and would just like to work with somebody who has studied trauma sensitive yoga, which is a type of yoga that used to help treat complex PTSD.”
Tori started this company just two years ago, fully online during the pandemic. Did you offer virtual yoga sessions during this time? What is the difference for you, especially when you're working with maybe someone that's gone through this traumatic experience?
“I actually didn't offer online sessions. I really value teaching yoga in person, and there's a beautiful connection between the teacher and the student that I think is really important, especially when it comes to teaching yoga with somebody who experiences PTSD. One thing that's really interesting about trauma sensitive yoga that I think a lot of people don't realize, is the fact that if someone has been through something traumatic, going to a yoga class where the lights are dim, or someone might touch them, where there's a lot of people around them, could actually be triggering.
I'd encourage anyone who has been through something traumatic to research Trauma Center trauma sensitive yoga to see if there are any online offerings currently or if they can find a teacher near them. I know, for me, going from being super triggered after my assault to a yoga session, and having a teacher touch my back without my permission, was horrible for me. I think that anyone who has been through something traumatic should research this type of yoga, understand it, and also know that it's an option for them. Maybe, if they weren't excited about going back to their mat after experiencing something traumatic, they can see that there's a type of yoga out there for them.”
We don't think people realize that there's a lot of difference, maybe even postures and positions, that just feel so vulnerable and open. When you’re with others who understand you, that vulnerability doesn’t feel quite so intense and overwhelming. This community aspect is necessary to re-enter ourselves. No one deserves to feel alone.
Let's switch gears into learning more about the yoga mats. What are your future plans with Yoga4Good?
“I'm glad you asked because we just launched a GoFundMe. I have gotten so many people who have asked for yoga mat donations, and they're helping at-risk youth and underprivileged children, and I really want to give them yoga mats. We are also going to launch a repurpose program so that if you no longer want your Yoga4Good mat and it's nice and well loved, you can send it to me, and then I will either give it to somebody else, or donate it. It will be repurposed in some way to keep yoga mats out of landfills.
In terms of yoga teachings, I’m in the process of becoming a Trauma Center trauma sensitive yoga instructor. I've seen trauma-informed yoga here, but I haven't seen any trauma sensitive yoga classes, and this type of yoga is the only form of yoga that is actually able to help people work through PTSD and complex trauma.”
Tell us a little bit more about your own practice and how it helps you in your life. How does it impact your day to day? How often do you do yoga? What does that look like for you?
“I do a little bit of yoga, honestly, every single day. One of the things that I really love to focus on is doing what feels good for me in my body. Trauma Center trauma sensitive yoga emphasizes agency and choice. You don't have to do what the teacher is saying, and while the teacher may be commanding you to do something, you can do something different because if that doesn't feel right for you in your body, that's okay.
If you do love yoga, and you have an active yoga practice, try going to a yoga class, but do what feels right for you and your body. Listen to what your body's telling you to do. I really love the other teachers out there that respect when people do different things in their classes – within reason, of course – and that honor when people are in child's pose for 20 minutes or something. I really appreciate all the teachers here that are respectful of choice and people listening to their bodies.
I have to bring up this analogy: When someone's describing a delicious meal to you, and your stomach is growling, you know that means you have to eat. Maybe that's a weird analogy, but when you listen to your body, you’ll know when you need to go get on your mat today. You’ll know what you need.”
You have the power to heal and just be with yourself and get connected again. Meet yourself where you are, whether that's in coaching programs or one-on-one or retreats. Allow yourself to check in to see where you're at, and then, go into that space and let your feelings flow. But it requires that self connection, which is what a yoga mat can help you accomplish. Isn't it funny? It's an object, but it means so much more. It can branch out in so many ways.
How can readers support Yoga4Good? How can they donate to the GoFundMe, learn more about everything that you're doing, or find the classes that may be coming up in the near future?
“You can find us at Yoga4Good.com and we're also on Instagram @Yoga_4Good. We’re also on Facebook as Yoga4Good San Diego. We're taking donation requests on our website, and we also have a GoFundMe which is posted on our Facebook, Instagram and website as well. If you feel called to like or to share or donate, even if it's just your morning Starbucks stipend, we would really appreciate that.
We're going to take all those funds and donate them to any organizations or schools that are teaching yoga to at-risk youth, so if you're also an organization or school and you need yoga mats for your kids, please reach out to us online as well!”
As mentioned above, Tori and Yoga4Good have provided yoga mats for our upcoming Queer Self Love retreat. If you're at the retreat, you're going to experience them, but if you live in the US and you’d like to purchase a Yoga4Good mat, visit their website to get yours now!
Loved this blog? Check out the full interview with Tori on the Coming Out Happy Podcast.
Dani & Keely
Have questions for us? Be sure to send us a DM on IG here!
Visit our website for all of the Queer Happiness Collective membership, LGBTQ+ Conversation Cards, and more!