Yoga mats were rolled out onto the floor. The lights were low but flameless candles flickered in the center of the room. And the faint scent of lavender hung in the air. Fifteen-year-old Danielle* had just finished a Wise Inside yoga session at Cunningham Children’s Home and was feeling really good.
"I learned things I never knew," she said. "I learned how to manage my emotions, my energy and how to be calm."
Wise Inside, a trauma-sensitive yoga program, was created at Cunningham to help our youth cope with the significant histories of trauma they have endured. The program takes a therapeutic approach that is developmentally appropriate for individuals who have been exposed to chronic stress from abuse and neglect.
The benefits of the program are plentiful. Wise Inside helps our kids develop strength and flexibility; teaches them how to sooth their nerves and practice techniques that calm their mind; and helps them learn breathing patterns which can be used as coping mechanisms that help manage emotional outbursts.
Initially developed for our girls and young women at Cunningham, the Wise Inside program has expanded because of the support received this fall from generous supporters. Our boys and young men from both the residential program and CIRCLE Academy are now reaping the benefits as well.
While there was some hesitation and unwillingness at first, our youth have positively embraced the yoga experience.
"One of the greatest highlights has been watching our youth transition from resistance to looking forward to sessions," Special Therapies specialist Jill said. "During one session, one of our more challenging-to-engage youth requested the ‘10-1 Shake Out,’ because of how great it made her feel. While working in the day schools [CIRCLE Academy], news of the program spread which helped more students feel excited about participating in the project."
Yoga suppresses the fluctuations of the mind. In other words, it slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear and desire that can cause stress.
"The youth would start most sessions complaining, avoidant and reluctant to engage," Jill said. "But no matter how much grief they gave us at the start of each session, they bought into the program. They talked about how the program benefited them, how it made them feel and how the regulation activities were helping them learn to think more clearly."
At the end of each session, everyone comes together in the center of the room. They hold their hands in the prayer position and bow towards one another while saying "Namaste," a Hindu blessing which, simply put, means the light in me, recognizes the light in you.
If you would like to help support Wise Inside or other Special Therapies programming, contact Brooke Buzard, Associate Director of Advancement at (217) 337-9073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*name has been changed to protect the privacy of our youth