Trauma Sensative Yoga

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 Psychological trauma may result after an individual experiences an event which is interpreted as severely distressing or threatening  Trauma differs between individuals according to their subjective experiences, which is why someone may interpret an event as traumatic, while someone else interprets the same event as ‘normal’.  Some survivors may develop extreme anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which results in constantly living life in the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response, or alert mode.  Over time, this can impact personal relationships or self-esteem.  

Children in the juvenile justice system often have experienced disproportionately high rates of childhood trauma, which can have long-term harmful effects on physical and/or mental health. Studies show that people who have been through one or more "adverse childhood experiences," (e.g., physical abuse, incarceration of a close family member, or mental illness in their household) have higher chances of incurring mental health issues while also showing a higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.

In April 2017, the Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality released a report highlighting the mounting evidence that yoga helps at-risk youth cope with trauma. The report advocates for yoga programs to be offered in the juvenile justice system amidst growing evidence finding that tailored forms of yoga and mindfulness can be uniquely effective in overcoming pervasive childhood trauma.

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In an interview conducted by NPR in June 2017, titled "The Role of Yoga in Healing Trauma," one of the report's authors, Rebecca Epstein, stated that adolescent wards offering trauma- informed (or sensitive if that is taken right from her wording)yoga programs see a reduction in violent behavior amongst those who participate. Two Georgetown pilot studies showed girls and young women who participated in a yoga program reported better self-esteem and developed skills that they could use in stressful situations.  Results from programs in the juvenile justice system showed that after practicing in trauma-informed yoga, participants:

  • Reported greater levels of self-esteem, self-respect, and general wellbeing.

  • Showed declines in anger, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety.

  • Improved their ability to identify negative behavior patterns and resolve conflicts.

  • Used breathing techniques to avoid aggressive responses to provocations by peers and to manage the stress of appearing in court.

  • Reported past incidents of sexual violence to staff.

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The Georgetown Law report finds that:

  • Yoga practice can restore neurological pathways in a region of the brain that processes emotion awareness.

  • Trauma-informed yoga can help participants overcome a feeling of disconnection to their body that is common among survivors of sexual violence.

For children vulnerable to poorer health and diminished achievement because of poverty, unsafe homes, and inadequate adult guidance or supervision, Yoga 4 Change represents an opportunity to find inner strength. Our programming gives students the tools to master their breathing, calm mind and body, and shift focus away from the other stressors in their lives.

Before I started yoga, I would hurt myself. Now yoga makes me feel peaceful.” Ashlyn, 17, Resident, Youth Crisis Center.

Each year, our professional instructors teach yoga to more than 600 vulnerable youth in schools, juvenile facilities, and after-school learning organizations. Yoga provides the foundation for conflict management, better sleep, and the physical and emotional healing these students need to focus on learning.

The Need

500,000+ vulnerable youth in Northeast Florida

  • Greater risk for health problems
  • 30% more likely to commit violent crime
  • 59% greater chance of juvenile arrest
  • 87% of people living homeless report at least one adverse childhood experience

Our Impact

9,000+ vulnerable youth involved in Yoga 4 Change

  • 19 Facilities
  • 864 hours annually
  • Program themes include bullying, gratitude, peer pressure, forgiveness, vulnerability

Your tax-deductible donation matters. Whether you make a small gift of $10, make a pledge of a re-occurring sustaining gift, or make a large dollar contribution, your support of Yoga 4 Change enables us to advance our mission and programming in Northeast Florida.  You can make your contribution as an individual, family, foundation, or business.  Please consider giving today. 

Patrick Fisher