Yoga is one of the hottest fitness trends around.
But it turns out, it's also a great technique for healing minds and bodies affected by toxic stress and trauma. That's why it's now being used in a teen program offered by the Children's Home Society (CHS).
And while yoga is known for its healing powers, it can also be a little intimidating. Even when you're closely bonded, like many of teens attending a CHS youth group.
"You might be the only one that's adopted, you might be the only one who has a story such as my parents are in jail, or I was abandoned, and those are really significant and isolating experiences," explains Rachel Neukirck, the director of programs at the Children’s Home Society.
That’s why the Children's Home Society youth group is a great opportunity for teens to connect with others just like them.
Then, three weeks ago, they were told they'd all be trying yoga.
"The reaction from the room, it was very questionable,” recalls Drew, an 18-year-old member of the youth group. “We were like what is yoga? Or, someone's like, is this yoga?"
For four weeks, social worker Jessica Pietroburgo who is also a CHS family support partner and a certified yoga instructor, is leading the teens, breath by breath, to a calmer body and mind.
"They're like well yoga isn't for me, or I can't touch my toes so I'm not good at yoga, or saying something to that effect,” says Jessica. “But after the first couple of sessions, many of them have realized yoga maybe wasn't what I thought it was.”
Here, yoga is framed as a way to check in with the body, and become more aware of that racing mind or heart.
Toxic stress and trauma can leave anyone cut off from feelings or set of false fears. Yoga can help break that cycle, retraining the mind and body to be in the here and now.
"It’s building new connections” between body and mind, says Jessica. “So if toxic stress has broken those connections and they're rewired a different way, yoga and other rhythmic activities that involve the mind and the body build new connections."
It's a proven strategy. Teens like Drew, whose adoptive mother died earlier this year, can use yoga techniques to build resilience even when they're not here among their trusted friends.
"Yoga is probably the number one thing I should always pick because it's just a great stress reliever,” says Drew. "It actually works 100 percent of the time."
To learn more about the teen youth group at Children's Home Society, call 314-968-2350, or visit www.chsmo.org.