Our yoga program at Ironwood is designed to empower residents through therapeutic yoga to make positive, effective choices both on and off the mat. We offer our teens useful, experiential tools such as breathing, noticing, and patience during our yoga classes and then experiment with how these same practices are applicable to their everyday lives.
We start with a solid foundation of mind-body awareness. In class, residents have the opportunity to notice an emotion that has been difficult or painful and without naming it out loud, they rest their hand on their body where they feel that emotion. For example, a residents may be feeling a lot of anxiety and may place their hand on the center of their chest. From this angle, they learn that emotions are held within the body and that they have a choice to work with their emotions in a healthy, positive way.
Once they understand the connection of this mind-body awareness, we begin to practice intentional, mindful breathing, and grounding. We experiment with breathing into the emotion – instead of fighting it or running away from it – and by using this model, our residents learn to effectively use their breath to calm their emotions. This awareness, in class, also offers them a chance to use this tool within the Ironwood program by teaching them to notice that when they have a strong emotion (anger, grief, depression), they can feel where it is in their body and take a deep breath to ground themselves before reacting. This process empowers them to choose a different reaction than they are used to (punching, lashing out, self-harm) and it gifts them the opportunity to self-regulate and self-soothe with effective, positive action.
From this place, we then begin the more physical practice of yoga. We encourage residents to keep noticing their breathing while they move through a flow of postures designed to release tension and bring a sense of calm to their body and mind. Moving from basic postures to more advanced postures and eventually to a silent meditation, our residents can explore and experience the many benefits of yoga. These tangible tools and life skills learned in our yoga classes are an empowering presence as they journey from Frye to the Farmhouse, and eventually back into their world.
Many of our residents have said that after a yoga class, they experience a deep sense of being connected to self, that they become reactive with staff and peers, they are more mindful of their actions and reactions, that they sleep and eat better, they are less judgmental of their bodies, that they use yoga postures outside of class to relieve physical and emotional pain, that they notice a huge reduction in anxiety and racing thoughts, that they choose to be healthy and positive, that they have better posture, and that they constantly use mindful breathing throughout the day.