In 2003, Mary Lynn Fitton, a nurse practitioner and yoga instructor, worked with young women in the juvenile justice system. Most of the youth she worked with had been physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused, many sexually exploited. Because of this abuse they were dealing with many mental health issues, as well as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and high-risk behaviors.
Mary Lynn knew that health education alone was not the answer. She realized that the young women she worked with lacked a “…fundamental awareness of, and connection to, their own physical and emotional needs.”. So she started the Art of Yoga Project. The Project provides early intervention treatment and rehabilitation services to at- risk, incarcerated and exploited teenage girls in the juvenile justice system in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently the organization serves approximately 500 young women annually.
The cornerstone of the project is the Yoga & Creative Arts Curriculum. This is a year –round course that combines health education, character development, physical discipline,( yoga), mental discipline (meditation), and creative arts therapy. This curriculum assists the youth in coming to understand the issues going on for them which results in them making poor choices, The work they do in these classes help them learn to “… manage their anger and impulses; become accountable for their actions and develop a productive outlet for their emotions.”. Yoga gives the”… women safe ways to push limits and test boundaries and it helps balance the intense hormones and powerful emotions of adolescence…”. The creative arts side provides an avenue for the girls to channel their emotions. “Artistic expression gives young women a voice. They can write, paint or draw about feelings and convictions instead of acting them out with high-risk behaviors.”. The Art of Yoga Project is a fantastic program, guiding the young women participating in the program in claiming a new sense of themselves.