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Out There: Newtown Yoga Festival Is Still Healing Sandy Hook Trauma

Communities across the country, take note: Since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, the Newtown Yoga Festival has set an example for using yoga to bring a community together and heal trauma.

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Communities across the country, take note: Since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, the Newtown Yoga Festival has set an example for using yoga to bring a community together and heal trauma.

The December 15, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary shooting left Newtown, Connecticut, a community of trauma victims. To deal with the long-lasting effects of violence, the first Newtown Yoga Festival was planned for August 2013. “It was a way to offer holistic tools for the community to deal with trauma,” says Karen Pierce, Co-Founder and Project manager of the Newtown Yoga Festival. This year’s event with be the fourth annual.

The festival was formed from a strong belief in the benefits of yoga, especially for people dealing with trauma. “As yogis, we know that yoga is very effective for going into those places that other therapies aren’t,” Pierce says.

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The festival aims to bring positivity to the community after so much negativity. “We’ve had, since the shootings, a lot of experts and people coming in talking about recovery and trauma and grief, and this is one of those things that tries to stay separate from that. It’s more to accomplish just a happy, upbeat forum that doesn’t scream tragedy,” says Suzy DeYoung, co-founder and community outreach coordinator of the Newtown Yoga Festival.

This year’s festival is being co-taught by Yoga Journal LIVE! presenter Elena Brower and Gwen Lawrence, as they explore the power of yoga and healing to provide the tools for positive transformation. The festival also offers a variety of fun, explorative classes including journey dance, hoop yoga and gentle yoga. Dylan’s Wings of Change, a local organization dedicated to helping children with disabilities, will be sponsoring a Yoga for Children of All Abilities class. The festival has brought in “teachers who are specifically trained to work with children who have sensory and motor differences,” Pierce says. “They’re much more conscious of the things that might overstimulate some of the other kids.”

The proceeds from the festival go toward free classes for the community. Last year The Newtown Yoga Festival raised enough funds to offer a free six-week mindfulness community class. This year DeYoung and Pierce hope to raise enough to offer that program again, as well as offer after-school programs for kids.

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“There was very little support last year,” Pierce says. “All of the grants have run out, everybody’s moved on to the next tragedy…I don’t think people understand the length and the long-term effects of victims of violence and trauma. Last year we had Doctors Gerbarg and Brown, and they’re still working with people from 9/11.”

Bringing the community together in a loving, non-judgmental setting is one of the most positive aspects of the festival, she says. “It’s really powerful…there’s a lot of good going on in our community and a lot of good people,” she says. “And coming together in that shared experience of their suffering and trauma, even if some of us didn’t lose an immediate relative, being such a tight-knit community [where] everybody knows everybody, that coming together like that in a space of love and non-judgment makes it even more powerful.”

See alsoYoga for First Responders: 5 Strategies for Stress + Trauma

Event at a Glance


Day-long yoga festival aimed at helping the community of Newtown and victims of violence


Saturday, August 27, 2016, 9 AM–4:30 PM


NYA Sports and Fitness, 4 Primrose Street, Newtown, CT


$30 for an all-day pass; donations are also accepted


Interested in helping or taking part in this event? Email for more information.

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