An overwhelming number of incarcerated girls are victims themselves, caught in cycles of violence and abuse. The Art of Yoga Project is working to break this cycle.
Our approach combines yoga, meditation, creative arts and writing and is the result of over a decade of experience teaching mindfulness-based practices to justice-involved girls. Our model is significantly influenced by shared learnings from our partners in mental health, probation, the judiciary and education. It combines gender-responsive best practices[i] with trauma-sensitive yoga,[ii] developmental assets for healthy adolescent maturation[iii] and contemporary neuroscience research on developmental trauma and the brain.[iv]
Our programming utilizes the Child Trauma Academy’s evidence-based Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics[v] to address the particular needs of girls in the juvenile justice system. This model guides our class sequencing by addressing emotional dysregulation, which is common in traumatized youth. The class structure mirrors “bottom-up” brain development by first regulating the brainstem (the “survival brain”) through sensory integration and self-regulation, then the limbic system (the “feeling brain”) through relational activities, and finally the prefrontal cortex (the “learning brain”) through cognitive activities. Another way to explain this sequencing is with the “three R’s” described in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics —first we Regulate, then Relate then Reason.
The Child Trauma Academy recommends yoga, meditation, and expressive arts as part of essential, therapeutic interventions to regulate traumatized individuals’ nervous systems and bring them back into balance.[vi]
[i] Harris, D. A., and Fitton, M. L. (2010). The Art of Yoga Project: A Gender-Responsive Yoga and Creative Arts Curriculum for Girls in the California Juvenile Justice System. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 110 (20)
Bloom, B. Owen, B. & Covington, S. (2005) Gender-responsive strategies for women offenders: A summary of research, practice, and guiding principles for women offenders. Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections. NIC accession n. 020418
[ii] Emerson, D., Sharma, R., Chaudhry, S., and Turner, J. (2009) Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: Principles, Practice, and Research. International Journal of Yoga Therapy 19, 123-28. Trauma Center at Justice Resource Center: Brookline, MA.
[iii] Benson, P. L. (2007). Developmental Assets: An Overview of Theory, Research, and Practice. Approaches to Positive Youth Development. Eds. Silbereisen, R. J. and Lerner, R. M. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 33-58
[iv] Barfield, S., Dobson, C., Gaskill, R. and Perry, B. D. (2012). Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics in a Therapeutic Preschool: Implications for Work with Children with Complex Neuropsychiatric Problems. International Journal of Play Therapy, 21(1), 30-44
[v] Perry, B. D. (2009). Examining Child Maltreatment Through a Neurodevelopmental Lens: Clinical Applications of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14(4), 240-55.
Perry, B. D. (2006). The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics: Applying Principles of Neuroscience to Clinical Work with Traumatized and Maltreated Children. Working with Traumatized Youth in Child Welfare. Ed. Webb N. B. New York: Guilford, 27-52.