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Using Yoga to Help Girls at Risk



— February 10, 2020

Using Yoga to Help Girls at Risk

  • How taking to the mat helps young women overcome trauma.

Kids who wind up in the juvenile justice system tend to have experienced a lot of trauma in their young lives. That’s especially true of girls, who are often dealing with the after-effects of sexual violence and other forms of abuse.

Yoga Counteracts Trauma’s Effects

A new report indicates that yoga may help these girls move past problems such as depression and to become more self-confident and resilient. Gender & Trauma, released by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality (, drew its conclusions in part from the results of pilot studies in Connecticut and Pennsylvania based on an idea called Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, in which mindfulness, regulated breathing and yoga poses were used to help girls develop greater self-esteem, better physical well-being, and healthier relationships, among other benefits.

“Girls were reporting they didn’t get into fights, they were able to take a breath before they reacted,” says Thalia González, JD, one of the study’s co-authors. “We saw less self-reported depression, an increase in girls viewing themselves in a fundamentally more positive way.”

Helping Girls Self-Regulate

Participants were also able to deal with the juvenile justice system more effectively.

One young woman, who became a yoga instructor herself, was quoted in the report: “I was always an angry person and I used to do the breathing…it made me watch the words that I use, and how to think before I jump into action.”

González wants Trauma-Sensitive Yoga to be used more widely across the country. “It’s really about scaling this up,” she says. “This works—it is really cost-effective.”

Yoga for All Kids

Yoga has shown benefits for all children, including the potential to boost grades, lessen anxiety, promote greater strength and flexibility, and improve confidence.
In fact, medical professionals have recommended this ancient practice to youngsters for disorders such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, and skin conditions.
Specific poses are helpful for specific concerns. Kristin McGee, a New York City-based yoga teacher and personal trainer, suggests:

  • Camel to help with breathing and circulation
  • Tree for greater concentration and balance

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