Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

Photo: Atlanta Black Star

CBS News recently had a story on how a Baltimore school and its children are benefiting from meditation.

“During the morning rush,” CBS reports, “Robert W. Coleman Elementary School is as bustling as any other school. But after the buses arrive and the kids pour in, the usual classroom chatter comes to a complete stop.

“The students here learn to seek their inner peace. Every day begins with what the school calls a ‘mindful moment’ – a 15-minute blend of yoga and meditation.

“It’s not what you’d expect from a school in West Baltimore, but it’s the dream of two brothers from right here in the neighborhood, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil.

“Twice a day, more than 300 students take part in the ‘Mindful Moments’ program. They learn to breathe, stretch and block out distractions.

“Principal Carillian Thompson said this has made a ‘huge difference.’ … ‘We’ve had zero suspensions,’ Thompson said.

“When students fight or misbehave at Coleman, they aren’t sent to the principal’s office. Instead, they are sent to the ‘mindful me’ room, where they’re taught to resolve conflicts peacefully and teach each other what they’ve learned.

“ ‘When I was breathing, all the things that’s been happening, I passed that on — all the problems, I passed that on and worried about… what’s more important,’ Sierra said.

“The program is the vision of Ali and Atman Smith, who grew up nearby in one of Baltimore’s most volatile neighborhoods.

“ ‘There’s violence going on in the neighborhoods, there’s drug abuse in the neighborhoods, so it’s just, there’s all these things just getting dumped on these kids and they need a way to kind of deal with it,’ said Ali Smith, co-founder of Holistic Life Foundation. …

“ ‘We’re teaching kids at a young age to try to really make a change in our community as far as how conflicts are resolved,’ said Atman Smith.”

More at CBS News, here.

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The Boston Medical Center, whose patients are mostly poor, has been a pathbreaker in treating the whole person. Its volunteers and staff help patients find services for life issues that may be exacerbating health problems. BMC works with lawyers to get landlords to make building-code-required changes that affect asthma and other conditions.

Now it is doing an experiment with yoga.

On Monday, the Boston Globe wrote, a “yoga class, held in a Boston Medical Center lobby for staff and patients, features postures vetted for people with back pain. It was a prototype for an ongoing study exploring the use of yoga in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

“A survey of 5,050 people who practice yoga, conducted for Yoga Journal in 2008, found that 44 percent — almost half — reported annual incomes of $75,000 or more, and 24 percent said their income was higher than $100,000. Chronic low-back pain annually affects between 5 and 10 percent of all income levels of the population …

“Because many yoga postures stretch and strengthen the muscles affecting the back, at least 10 published studies have been done on yoga and chronic low-back pain, says [BMC’s Dr. Robert B.] Saper. But though the majority have shown yoga to be promising as a low-cost treatment, all have been done on predominantly white, educated, affluent populations, he says.

“ ‘In our patient population, it’s unusual to have back pain alone as a single problem,’ Saper says, noting that many patients also suffer from hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, and anxiety. And while he emphasizes that he doesn’t consider yoga a ‘panacea for everything,’ he says that ‘because of the mind-body component of yoga, we’re aware that [it] may be helpful for a variety of patients with co-morbidities. And that it may help with depression, anxiety, and resilience.’ …

“The yoga group received one 75-minute class each week that included postures, deep breathing, and meditation. They were also given an instructional CD and equipment to practice 30 minutes a day at home. After 12 weeks, the yoga group reported one-third less pain and an 80 percent decrease in pain medications. The control group reported a decrease in pain of 5 percent and no change in medication use.”

Read more here.

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I blogged a while back about a prison arts program that seemed to help some offenders discover a more positive, less antisocial side of themselves. Today I have a similar story, this one from England.

“Allowing prisoners to take part in art [projects] can help cut reoffending rates in half, according to a report commissioned by the Arts Alliance. The group of charities has voiced concern that in tough economic times such projects may be cut.” Nick Higham of the BBC reports in a video clip here.

I admire people who have the faith in human nature to try to reach society’s lost souls with arts or yoga or meditation or any other enrichment.

My second cousin, Alex, went to college in Cambridge, Mass., and did an internship teaching meditation techniques to some serious cases at the Suffolk County jail. She loved it and was inspired to go to graduate school and work with others in trouble.

Her mother tells me her latest internship is with a social services agency an hour and 20 minutes away. “She is managing several extremely challenging cases and spends a lot of time making home visits in dismal housing projects. Her days include fighting for housing for her clients, calling the police when bruised and beaten women answer the door, mediating confrontations between single moms who are managing 3-9 children and school officials who won’t let a child ride the bus due to behavioral issues. Her clients have been victims of domestic and other forms of violence and most have substance abuse issues. Her job is to find resources to rehabilitate troubled families. She is learning fast how to be the ultimate problem solver, confidante and counselor.  Most of all, she is extremely happy and energized by the challenge.”

I am in awe that this tough work makes Alex happy and energized. We are lucky to have people like that on the front lines.


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Before it got hot this morning, a yoga class was exercising at one end of the Greenway.

At the other end, carousel horses waited for riders.

Meanwhile in New York, an improv troupe approached a different carousel.

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Saw an amazing photography show this morning. Lori Waselchuk chronicles a program at a maximum security prison. The exhibit flyer says, “A life sentence in Louisiana means life. More than 85% of the 5,100 inmates imprisoned at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola are expected to die there. Until the hospice program was created in 1998, most prisoners died alone.”

The inmates who work in the hospice program are pictured caring for others and keeping a 24-hour watch when someone is near death. They “go to great lengths to ensure that their fellow inmate does not die alone.”

I don’t want to be a pollyanna about this (I can see that some patients are still so susceptible to violent outbursts that volunteers may visit them only by speaking through a small window), but I am interested that many of the hospice workers discover a new side of themselves. George Brown, 49, says, “The most important thing I have learned as a hospice volunteer is that I have a heart and it has feelings.” Sometimes the guards find a new attitude in themselves, too. The flyer adds that the show, Grace Before Dying, “reflects how grace offers hope that our lives need not be defined by our worst acts.” Read about it here.

I have heard about one or two similar prison programs. Here is a piece about the Yoga Prison Project , started at San Quentin in California. And here is a movie about a prison meditation project called Dhamma Brothers.

My second cousin Alex was so energized by teaching meditation in a Boston prison that she is now entering a graduate program to gain more skills.

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