This philosophy runs deep in our business practices. Over the years, we have served people of all ages, physical abilities, and wellness goals. We have welcomed first timers, and encouraged them as they developed into regulars. We have donated many hours to organizations who could not pay but whose populations could obviously benefit from yoga.
This week, I want to share one such story. Below is a press release I put together with my colleagues at the Department of Youth Services facility in Dorchester. You'll find me there once a week, acting in a small way on my belief in yoga's universal power to transform, and my passion to make yoga accessible to all.
The Department of Youth Services utilizes Diaelectical Behavioral Therapy with the juveniles in its care. DBT, as it is often called, is a set of techniques that teach emotion awareness and regulation, reality-testing, and appropriate coping skills for stress situations. Mindfulness is a major component of DBT, and a technique the staff at DYS wanted more emphasis on. In late 2011, they put out a call for yoga teachers, hoping to develop yoga programs in many of their units as a way of offering more practice in mindfulness. Katherine Bicer was one of the first to respond, and now runs the only ongoing class at the Dorchester campus. Funding for classes has been made available through the generous donations of the patrons of Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Over the weeks of classes, the boys have become familiar with the exercises and now engage in conversations about the tenets of yoga, which one student describes as “relaxing and soothing for us.” On several occasions, a student has led the group in sun salutations. Following a recent break in classes, several participants reported they had done yoga on their own. On the basketball court one day a new resident was overheard complaining that his back was hurting. Another resident responded: “We do yoga on Tuesday and that makes your body feel good, it’s cool for your back and everything else when you’re tight.” On class evaluations, all responders said they found the breathing exercises “a great deal” useful. Staff also see the benefit of the classes and often participate themselves. Sarah Young LICSW, Clinical Director, says “We look forward to this as a unit each week and although this is a time of distress for these kids and their famiilies—it is an experience/activity that these boys may have judged or been resistant to if they were in the community. It is so wonderful to watch them learn a new coping skill and watch them respect it as much as they do any other organized sport .”
Bicer says “I wanted to teach this class because yoga has been transformative for me and I am always looking for opportunities to help others be transformed too. I have worked with substance abusers, homeless women, and inner city teens, but this was my first experience with an incarcerated population. It has been challenging and rewarding.”
Word of the Pre-Trial Unit’s yoga classes has been spreading to the other DYS units and the staff has hopes of expanding the program. Certified yoga instructors who are interested in conducting classes with the DYS may contact Katherine Bicer for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org