The spike in youth violence across this summer has left many people wondering what can be done to prevent violence before it happens.
A group in Cincinnati, Project Yoga, works hand-in-hand with school-based partners to offer a tangible solution — using mindfulness and yoga to help kids cope with stress and trauma.
Executive director Gina Fennell said she’s seen the practices work with the students she teaches.
“For example, we have a program at William Howard Taft Elementary, and one of our young boys has said to us, ‘You know, I was having a fight with my sister, but I chose to go outside and take a walk instead,’” Fennell said. “And he attributes that to yoga. That's a fifth-grader. "
Fennell said it’s in those moments of chaos that they teach children to stop and take a few deep breaths. This is one of the “tools” that kids can access during a stressful situation.
“When the time comes to call these tools during a stressful or a highly emotional situation, they've built some muscle mass in the process,” Fennell said. “They've built a lot of trust that these tools will work because they've experienced it time and time again on their yoga mat in class.”
Fennell said Project Yoga has been called on more to help in the areas of social-emotional and mental health wellness.
“So what that looks like for us is a lot of mindful moments sprinkled into an easily accessible physical yoga class,” she said.
Terrez Thomas, principal of Carson Elementary, said Project Yoga has had a positive impact on his students who are often dealing with issues of extremely high stress.
“Just the environmental trauma of living in a high-crime area, so what better way to teach our students to cope with anything they have on their shoulders as little people than just to have strategies to help them ground themselves,” Thomas said.
Fennell said she hopes the skills they teach on a yoga mat will translate to lifelong coping skills.
"So our hope is that instilling these tools at a very young age will give them access to tap into them over the course of a lifetime,” Fennell said.
Project Yoga is expanding to a new Bond Hill location and will have a yoga studio for their sessions. For more information on Project Yoga, click here.