An English yoga instructor in the picturesque seaside town of Brighton was deeply disturbed by what she encountered on her way to work. Each morning, as she strolled along the strand, she’d see groups of young people, huddled underneath the pier. They were homeless youth seeking refuge and a safe place to spend the night. Instead of just walking by, she took pause and thought, “What can I do to help?”
The yogi’s name is Cat Duval and she is also the owner of Nine Lives Yoga studio. Duval was aware of the work of The Clock Tower Sanctuary, an agency in Brighton that offers support services to homeless youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 25. The agency is a drop-in center that provides a safe space and a variety of programs including counseling, healthy eating, music and now-yoga.
Thanks to Cat, a pilot program began in April of 2015. Its focus was to introduce groups of homeless youth to the positive power of mindfulness and the benefits of yoga. It was well-received, with over 20 new students in attendance. Fundraising has now allowed the program to continue and the classes are increasingly popular.
Here’s what one participant had to say about this new experience: “I feel my confidence in my body improving, it’s good for my health and also I feel more calm in my mind too. I have been using the breathing exercises when I’m stressed to give me a minute to think.” Another student, Mark, acknowledged attending yoga classes improved his outlook and helped him better deal with his situation.
In addition to the fact that they are homeless, many within the target age group are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness and LGBT adjustment issues. In the yoga sessions, they are learning poses and breathing techniques that they can turn to to help calm their thoughts and lower their stress levels. Here is what another new yogi had to say: “Yoga stretches are really helping my back ache from sleeping on the streets, I’m doing some every morning now.”
As the program grows, it has become apparent that learning yoga and mindfulness offers individuals beneficial tools for handling anger and frustration. One participant attended a workshop on “Dealing with Anger”. He noted that previously, he’d used marijuana to numb his senses and feelings of helplessness. Since he’s learned stretching and breathing techniques, he’s realized that there are healthier solutions.
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