As an 18-year-old college freshman, Ruth returned home for Christmas break with a secret: she had been sexually assaulted by another student. At the time, Ruth was living on campus at a small liberal arts college in her hometown in Michigan, where she ran track and cross country. It was a teammate who had assaulted her. Afterward, Ruth told no one except her roommate.
While at home on break, Ruth broke down and disclosed the assault to her mother. After that, Ruth stopped running track, and she transferred to another school in another state.
Tragically, Ruth and her mother had both been exposed to sexual violence in the past. As a result of prior experiences, Ruth had been in talk therapy sessions, but she knew needed more.
“I wanted to discover what it meant to live in the present moment,” Ruth explains. “I didn’t have the capacity to be in the moment without jumping back into post-traumatic stress, or PTSD symptoms.”
At her new school in Florida, Ruth began to explore international studies, and she pursued opportunities to travel. She joined a student-led nonprofit, where she was able to support grassroots, community-driven projects in developing countries like India. She taught English and worked for women’s empowerment programs, where she met other women who had also been victims of gender-based violence such as human trafficking and intimate partner violence.
“It was a really humbling experience to be there as a survivor,” Ruth says, “to be working with other survivors of violence in a different culture, and to hear their stories.”
Ruth describes feeling fully present in India, where she stayed for four months with host families.
“The beauty of travel is that it forces you to be in the moment,” Ruth explains, “and the only place we truly heal is in the present moment. Travel brought me to life again.”
As Ruth continued her political science studies at Florida State University, she was able to return to India and continue to support women in other countries through international programs. By age 24, Ruth was working at her university, helping to develop their social entrepreneurship program, when she began to question her career path. Although Ruth wanted to help others, she had witnessed corruption and negative outcomes in various international human rights programs.
At the time, Ruth was taking yoga and other fitness classes regularly, yet she felt a calling to deepen her understanding and practice of yoga. So, she took a week off and traveled to Nosara, Costa Rica for a trauma-sensitive yoga training – a decision that changed her life.
“It was incredible,” Ruth says. “I came back, and, within a few months, I quit my job and left everything to become a yoga teacher. I knew this was my path to helping others.”
Ruth returned to Michigan and opened a small yoga studio in her basement, where she began teaching trauma-sensitive yoga classes. She soon met Jake, a young military veteran, who she later married. Jake encouraged other veterans to enroll in Ruth’s healing yoga classes.
Just as life seemed to finally make sense, Ruth suffered another major trauma: At just 32 years old, Jake had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Soon after they married, Ruth lost Jake.