While a senior at Barnard College, Zoë LePage discovered her life service. Having witnessed in the faces of friends and loved ones the trauma that survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault deal with, she founded Exhale to Inhale (ETI). Harnessing the healing power of trauma-informed yoga and bringing it to survivors, she spends her time spreading a lesson we could all stand to learn. To let go of that which is no longer serving us in order to inhale new possibilities.
Who inspires you?
Our students, teachers, and team at Exhale to Inhale. People who show up authentically and honestly. People who own their story, focus on their healing, and then can turn around and help others heal.
What do you hope to inspire in other women?
I hope to inspire other women to be soft yet strong—have fierce spirits and tender hearts. The reason I chose the reverse warrior as ETI’s symbol, is because I want people to remember they can be strong without closing their hearts off. That being resilient doesn’t mean you can’t also be vulnerable and open. That although we bend, we do not break.
Is there an example you can share of how another woman has lifted you up?
In Spring 2013 when I first had the idea of what a powerful experience yoga could be for survivors, I shared this with Jodie Ruffy, my YogaWorks teacher trainer and Amy Tobin, who is now a Board Member for ETI. They both got behind the idea immediately and gave me the courage, confidence, and support to put this in motion.
In return, I want to lift others not by taking away people’s pain or telling them things will be ok—but by standing with them in those difficult moments. By helping them breathe through them and allowing the space to come back into themselves. There’s a beautiful poem that really speaks to me that Tara Tonini, our lead teacher trainer at ETI often references: “support is unconditional, it is listening, not judging not telling our own story… we are here to help a woman discover her own strength, not to rescue her and leave her still vulnerable” (excerpt, author unknown).
How has confidence played a role in your life?
If I’m being honest, confidence is something I struggle with—but my yoga practice grounds me, brings me back into myself, and gives me the resolve to get through things. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by decisions, opinions, and a large to do list, yoga helps me feel solid. We all feel overwhelmed and lost sometimes, but I believe that yoga is a tool that can help us to stay steady and know we can get through the moment.
What's the best part of your job?
Without a doubt, it’s seeing the impact of our work and hearing directly from our students on how these classes are helping them both on and off the mat. One beautiful example was this message we received from a student: “This morning I was in family court facing my ex. I was panicked at first, but I was able to use my breathwork and meditation teacher training and experience to slow my over-active nervous system and stay sane. I don’t know what I would have done without those tools. The ETI program you created is so necessary and such a gift for survivors. Thank you for all you do.”
What are you most proud of?
The work we do at ETI is not something I could have ever done alone. However, I am the proudest of having the courage to set something in motion that has allowed us to bring together an incredible and diverse community of healers and those being healed. The fact that together we’ve been able to bring healing for survivors for six years and supported 3,000 survivors to date is no small thing.
What has been the most useful advice you've received?
When you are struggling or feel lost—never forget that we need you here. We need you to show up for you. We need you to show up for your community. Your voice matters; your impact matters—so use it wisely.
What is your motto or mantra?
“Can I breathe through this?”—by the poet and activist Cleo Wade.
What are you most excited for next?
Building on the success of our first ever Inaugural Gala (this past October) and expanding our programming (classes and trauma-informed teacher trainings), ensure our ongoing strength and stability, and continuing to grow this amazing community. In an ideal world, we would work ourselves out of a job—but in the meantime, while we are experiencing an epidemic of domestic + sexual violence—we’re not going anywhere, we’re here to stand with and support survivors.
[Photo by Yumi Matsuo]