Bringing Yoga Home – Josefin Wikström
November 29, 2020
#022: Josefin Wikström
Scott talks to dear friend and colleague Josefin Wikström about how yoga changed her life, how she now shares yoga and Bollywood dancing to people in prisons and to those who suffer from complex trauma.
We’d like to invite you to join our growing Stillpoint Online Ashtanga Yoga and Mindfulness community. We live stream beginner classes, Ashtanga Yoga assisted self practice and guided classes with evening mindfulness sessions over 6 days with Scott Johnson and the Stillpoint teaching faculty. It’s a beautiful way to navigate these times…
Josefin Wikström trained as a Yoga Therapist with The Minded Institute in London with a particular focus on complex trauma and mental health. She has also trained with Bessel van der Kolk, and is a certified TCTSY-F (Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Facilitator), having trained with David Emerson.
She has been sharing trauma-informed yoga since 2003, and since 2008 she has brought yoga and dance into Swedish prisons. She has developed programmes for teaching yoga in prisons, and has taught internationally, including in San Quentin state prison in the US. In 2015, she began working with the Prison Yoga Project in Europe, and has led Prison Yoga Project trainings in Mumbai, India, and Mexico.
As part of her work for the Swedish Probation services, she co-developed the Swedish Krimyoga program, an evidence-based program drawing on research on the benefits of yoga in correctional settings. She is expanding her trauma-informed yoga programs to include settings such as psychiatry units, the Juvenile justice system, and in schools.
Through the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Boston, MA, she has completed the Traumatic Stress Studies Certification with She has also studied trauma-informed dance/movement therapy with Katia Verrault and Tripura Kashyap in India. Josefin is a professional member of ICPA-International Corrections and Prison Association.
You will be able to buy Josefin’s new book, co-authored with upcoming guest James Fox, called Freedom from the Inside: A Woman’s Guide to Yoga soon through this link here.
Bringing Yoga Home – Josefin Wikström
In this touching conversation Scott and Josefin talk about Josefin’s life as a yoga practitioner and yoga therapist teaching in prisons and to people with complex trauma, a journey that moves from teaching in the slums of Mumbai in 2005 to tabling a discussion at the centre of the UK government in the House of Lords in 2015. She has developed into an incredibly wise and prolific yoga teacher, sharing her love and passion for yoga to the most vulnerable people there are.
In this inspiring conversation Josefin shares:
- How yoga helped heal from childhood abuse and complex trauma.
- Had she been self medicating with alcohol and drugs then went to Goa at 18.
- She met an old man in New Delhi who said ‘you have to do yoga’! These words landed in her – he’d seen the unease in her body.
- How she went to Rishikesh and connected with breathing and moving in first or second class. She hadn’t taken a deep breath before then.
- Started to feel grounded, less scattered. Felt like she’d found herself at home in herself a sense of safety she had’nt had before.
- Her drive in her work – can reach this place of safety. An accessible, simple way, for so many people
- How yoga isn’t just about bliss – embracing causes of suffering too.
- ‘Cleaning our inner space’ put experiences in boxes rather than throwing them out.
- How she found a healthy sense of connection with people practising yoga, not to do with drugs.
- She kept the dancing and let go of drugs
- Yoga fine tunes the senses.
- Her work in Mumbai – Kaivalya project. She met a lady in a cafe in Mumbai who worked with dance yoga mental health. Josefin was asked to join an NGO working with children who’d survived sexual abuse.
- Therapeutic programs for women & children, dealing with trauma in community.
- Helped her own rehabilitation – mind body practises worked where CBT and other therapy didn’t.
- That movement practises transcend the need for common language.
- The essence of yoga is connection belonging to ourselves and human level.
- Her decision to return to Sweden and the need to bring the practises there.
- How she started working at a women’s prison in Sweden in 2008.
- How her experience of mental health issues and trauma help her to connect with the people she works with in prisons.
- The importance of keeping it real in order to help as a teacher.
- How sharing Bollywood dancing helped to break down the social hierarchies in prisons.
- How complex trauma can be a root cause for criminality, and that yoga & dance is a complementary therapy.
- Training guards to become yoga teachers – breaking down ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality.
- Results of research study – yoga vs root cause of criminality. Improved compulsivity (reaction times) reduction anxiety, improved self control, higher sense of belonging, just moving & breathing, no philosophy. Reduction of ocd symptoms
- James Fox & prison yoga project (training in 2014).
- How she came to address HOL about yoga in UK prisons.
- The book ‘ Freedom from the Inside’ written with women in yoga program, in sweden & international, written with James Fox.
- Yoga is finding a safe & non judging connection.
- Yoga as a tool for self regulation help us manage everyday life.
- Yoga given her a sense of belonging & wholeness that she didn’t have before.
- Living a contemplative life gives life different colours, different dimensions of how we relate to others.
‘’Everyone needs to know who Josefin Wikström is. In my opinion she is one of the most inspiring and compassionate yoga teachers and therapists I know. Her work and drive to help people with trauma become more connected to themselves is deeply moving. She has taken her own trauma and mobilised to truly help those in need. It was a privilege to hold this conversation and I feel it’s a great tool for yoga teachers to begin to see how they can connect to working with those who have trauma”
Scott Johnson – November 2020
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