Thursday, October 27, 2016

Can Yoga Help at Risk Neighborhoods

By Faye Martins

In North America, Europe, and Australia, the stereotypical yoga practitioner is a white middle-class person. They typically have the income required to purchase memberships at a studio or gym, roll out fancy mats, and don the latest in athletic gear. This stereotype does not address the benefits that the practice can have on people that fall outside of our view of the archetypal practitioner.

Yogic practices can have a positive effect on at-risk communities. In areas where there is a large probability that students will drop out of school, go to prison, contract an infectious disease, and face unemployment, using yogic philosophies as a solution to socio-economic issues may seem improbable.

Programs such as "I Grow Chicago" in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood show the promise that yoga can have on at-risk communities. Living in a troubled community is stressful. Asana and pranayama provide an escape for community members. Similar programs, such as the Urban Lotus Project in Reno, Nevada bring yoga to youth centers.

Yoga and meditation have also made their way into schools. Robert W. Coleman Elementary in Baltimore, MD employs the Holistic Me after school program, and they have recently received attention for replacing detention with meditation. Mindfulness practices are having visible effects in the school. Teachers reported that students are better able to self-regulate their behavior, and the school boasted zero suspensions and increased attendance last year. Planting the seeds of a yogic mindset early in a child's life can influence how they make decisions as they grow.

The importance of providing access to yogic practices has been recognized across the spectrum of at-risk communities. The Prison Yoga Project offers yoga to incarcerated individuals as a way to help them move beyond trauma and live in the present. It is this presence and connection to their own humanity and the humanity of others that can serve as a means of healing. The hope is that this project and ones like it will calm inmates dealing with the stresses of the prison environment and reduce recidivism rates. When the incarcerated return to their neighborhoods, they will be able to use yogic practices to stay out of trouble.

Asana practices and meditation can help everyone in an at-risk neighborhood, from children to adults mired in the struggle to those imprisoned. Ensuring that at-risk neighborhoods have access to these teachings could be a catalyst for positive change.

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2 comments:

parvezbdjsr said...

Thank you Faye Martins for writing this informative article.

Mary Wilson said...

Yogic practices can have a positive effect on at-risk communities. Thanks for this good article.