Timberline Knolls is a unique facility for young girls and women designed to support their specific needs. The facility makes a real-life difference using healing with female-specific care and a trauma-informed approach. We had a wonderful conversation with Elisabeth Nuesser, a trauma-informed yoga, and sound healing facilitator who works at Timberline Knolls.
PVM: Who is Elisabeth Nuesser?
When we asked Elisabeth to share more about her story, she stated it was a tricky question. Specifically, since “we all have stories, and how do you pick just one?” Her recent story is she has been a hairstylist for over 20 years and starting her practicing yoga personally over a decade ago.
Yoga has been life-changing for me.
She fell in love with yoga after starting to practice it for her own mental health; it was a lifeline for her at a time in her life. She recently transitioned from a full-time hairstylist to a full-time trauma-informed yoga facilitator in the last year. She is happily married with a few children. Before becoming a trauma-informed yoga facilitator, she and her husband created their own business called “Fight Chix,” which is a women’s empowerment brand with roots within the mixed martial arts community. She has been the acting CEO for about 17 years. She has accomplished many things throughout her life. She feels that in this stage of her life, she is being called to provide her healing abilities and be of service to others by providing yoga for individuals in spaces that genuinely need it.
PVM: Are you in a good place right now?
In her early 20’s, she was always on go and everything was a race, being in that hustle culture mindset. And so, during that time, she just kept pushing forward, not caring for herself. Having young children at home, working 2 full-time jobs, and a company to run, Elisabeth realized she was burning the candle on multiple ends. That is when she decided to care for herself more and started doing yoga. When she started yoga, she realized she was benefiting not just physically, but she was becoming much more mentally healthy.
When we allow the space and time to tend to healing, it can be life-changing.
PVM: What is Timberline Knolls, and how did you find that place?
Elisabeth saw a job listing post that they were looking for someone to bring trauma-informed yoga at Timberline Knolls. She was transitioning from the hair industry and had focused the last two years on her certifications. Once she got the job, she started working with the expressive team. The expressive team has art therapists, a music therapist, a recreational therapist, and trauma-informed yoga, which Elisabeth does. Timberline Knolls is a 43-acre residential recovery center for women. They treat residents from adolescents to adults, and have 7 lodges that can house up to 160 residents. The treatment center is a part of a multidisciplinary program. She has been there since March of 2022.
PVM: What was it like doing yoga for yourself to having to teach?
You have different type of ages, levels, and body types. When she teaches in the studio, it feels very different from what she was used to. It was different when she started working at TK because it was in a group setting. You often do not know everyone’s background, so you always want to meet the residents are at regarding their recovery. Elisabeth has what she calls the “arrival of the space.” This is a trauma-informed awareness she teaches which allows the person to feel safe and comfortable.
You want to allow their minds to know the environment is a safe space.
PVM: When you first stumbled upon yoga, how did it feel the first time you tried it?
The first time she tried yoga was on a Mexico trip at a resort when visiting with one of her friends. She was mentally drained from getting off the airplane and traveling, so she and her friend went to the yoga available at the resort, and she never felt calmer. When she got home, she looked for a yoga studio near her, signed up, and never looked back. The mental health effects from yoga made her realize how calm it made her.
When you can meditate and bring yourself into a state of mindfulness, it truly allows you to be in a state of mind that gives back to yourself.
PVM: How do you manage your emotions during your work?
In this particular type of yoga, there’s specific trauma training and a lot of energy and work goes into holding the space. She is intentional on holding energetic boundaries. When Elisabeth does restorative yoga, there is a lot of silence because she wants the individual to experience the pose. Her job is holding the space and meeting, seeing where they are in silence, and ensuring they have the proper composure. There are moments when a resident might have traumatic moments from PTSD, so her job is to ensure that person has the tools and protocol. Years of practice has helped her; to have mental strength, and have empathetic boundaries.
PVM: What is Trauma-informed Yoga?
There are different styles of yoga practices. When you sign up for a regular yoga class, for example, there is hot yoga, power yoga, and restorative yoga, there are all of these different channels of yoga. Many instructors follow a specific format or flow of the class and the structure. For trauma-informed yoga, it is very different. There are a lot of restorative poses involved. In trauma-informed yoga in a group setting, she may give them a different pose to see how the individuals respond and whether they are open to doing it. She would invite the group for exploration of it, and always making it an invitational practice and not directive language with each of the individuals.
It is designed for us to trust one another and work together.
Since it is a recovery setting, communication is key if they do group work. In a recovery setting, you are being as intentional as possible.
PVM: What is sound healing?
Sound can activate things within trauma recovery individuals. It is an alternative holistic healing modality that has been around for a long time. Elisabeth works with Crystal singing bowls that identify with the chakras of the body. The body is made up of roughly 80% water, when playing the singing bowls a frequency releases and this emanates based on the chakras. When you play with the Crystal bowl appropriately and gently, it’s healing on a cellular, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. It reacts with the water within the body, think of it as a rinsing and cleansing experience. According to Elisabeth, it is one of the most incredible and healing things you can experience. The sound of it brings vibration to the body. Some residents would say that they felt the vibrations in different parts of their body.
PVM: Is mental health important to you?
Yes! Especially during these times, Elisabeth mentions that it’s significant for our social, emotional, and psychological levels. She states that we must start putting mental health first as a collective. If we don’t have time to sit with our mental health and set up a positive process, we can’t turn to the tasks in front of us. Allowing yourself to take time for yourself and Elisabeth personally is taking time for yoga and meditation. That is why Elisabeth loves her job of being called to work in this space of service to be there for women by providing yoga and meditation. She feels that she is destined to be where she is right now. Working in this field and working with the expressive team has been a great experience; she feels she is part of the change in the world.
I want to be the light in a heavy space.
PVM: How does one start yoga?
She encourages you to start with meditation. A meditative practice she works on is Yoga Nidra, a meditation that guides you to different body points. This yoga practice takes you from the awake to the sleep state to the dream state, and when you get to the delta state, a release of dopamine occurs. Elisabeth states it’s the most healing time of the brain. It is a compelling practice. The calm app as well helps in terms of meditation. Elisabeth says that if you feel intimidated by classes, you can find a beginner 101 yoga online. Elisabeth refers to yoga as going to a restaurant. You can try many things, and sometimes you might like something over other certain types of yoga. For example, Elisabeth states that she did not like hot yoga when she was testing different yoga practices. Restorative yoga is a class she advises you to take that is not as difficult. Since it doesn’t require moving a lot, it helps balance your nervous system and relax.
It was a pleasure to learn more about Elisabeth. Learn more about her on Instagram.
Written by Fatima Santoyo