Yoga taught to kids in juvenile detention

August 26, 2013 3:02:47 PM PDT
There are a lot of health benefits to yoga.

And a unique program in Brooklyn has found it can help make a difference in the lives of some youngsters facing a tough future.

There's a strong likelihood that many of the young people in juvenile detention will end up in trouble as adults.

But this program teaches yoga with the hope of teaching these kids a way out of trouble.

We have covered the identities of the young people because they're all minors.

In a juvenile detention facililty, kids often struggle to find a space of their own.

But during this hour of yoga, they're encouraged to block everything out: why they ended up here, and where they're headed.

"I often say our young people make really poor decisions and never think before they make decisions," said Sandra Bryce, who runs the Ella McQueen Reception Center in Bushwick.

Kids who have committed misdemeanors come there for a two-week assessment before moving to a residential center for a year or longer.

When they arrive they're anxious and angry, and Sandra hopes learning yoga, even for just two weeks, can make a difference.

"What yoga does is really teaches mindfulness, it really has young people get in touch with their body and their mind, and so the hope is, and their experience has been, that once you get in touch with your breathing and the way you think, you can make better decisions," Bryce said.

The yoga comes via a non-profit called The Lineage Project. Since 1998, Lineage has been teaching yoga and meditation to young people in jails and even homeless shelters.

"These are for the most part young people who have been exposed to trauma, and trauma involves reacting, not being able to stay in the moment and take perspective," said Beth Navon of the Lineage Project.

The Lineage Project's research has found that just learning to breathe deeply can help change impulsive behaviors.

And the instructors playfully encourage the young people to turn inward.

"I think that having the chance to sit and reflect and feel empowered and free in their minds even if they're not free in their bodies because they're in a lockdown facility is really amazing and can be really transformative," said senior Lineage teacher Chia-Ti Chu.

And the thought is to start the teaching as soon as they enter the juvenile system, if not before.

And many of the young people appreciate that this positive attention is coming their way.

"When I get angry, I don't know, it's just there, but if I breathe that will help me a lot," said one of the youngsters.

"Yeah, I'll try it again, I liked it," said another.

The Lineage Project currently provides 26 yoga classes every week at 9 sites in New York City.

The Ella McQueen Reception area is the newest addition. It's expected 2,000 young people will take yoga with Lineage this year.