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Yoga in Juvenile Detention

Posted by Juliette Oliva on 11/15/2013

Any avid yogi can tell you: yoga is more than just an exercise regimen. For me, it's less about working up a sweat and more about self-improvement. Yoga is a healthy outlet for rambunctious teens and children; instructors note that it improves attention span and is very helpful for kids with ADD, ADHD, or on the autism spectrum. It also decreases stress and fights obesity.

Let's face it: being a kid is hard. And some kids get lost early on their life path and find themselves in juvenile detention centers for petty crimes such as theft or vandalism, to more serious crimes like felonies. These facilities are similar to jails and are harsh environments that would make any kid anxious, angry and confused. There is a direct correlation between juvenile delinquents and mental health disorders. As part of a comprehensive program, yoga programs such as The Lineage Project in Brooklyn, NY, have been introduced to Juvenile Detention Centers with successful results. The Lineage Project is a non-profit organization whose mission is to take yoga on the inside, helping disenfranchised youths “break the cycle of poverty, violence and incarceration" through yoga and meditation techniques. A similar non-profit organization in California, The Art of Yoga Project, intervenes with females in the juvenille justice system with strengthening yoga activity, yogic philosophy, and promotion of creative arts. About 500 women are served every year.

In many cases, these young people have been exposed to trauma, which leads to poor abilities of reaction. In a study published by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, yoga helps lessen symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including decreasing intrusive thoughts and soothing frantic nerves. Yogis deepen the mind/body/spirit connection and through linking the body and the mind, peace of mind and freedom of the mind is created, even when the physical body is locked down. Deep breathing is a critical tool in helping teens and children problem solve in stressful situations; it gives them the tools to slow down and pause before reacting poorly when put in a negative position.

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