YOGA for Youth: Bringing Yoga to Troubled Kids

Many kids who have difficulty managing the challenges they face and stumble along the road end up in camps and detention centers. When they get out, they are very vulnerable and likely to return to the behavioral pattern that got them incarcerated in the first place, unless they are explosed to other viable options.

The statistics are alarming. Young adults are responsible for close to one in five (18 percent) of all violent crimes in the United States and one in three (33 percent) of all serious property crimes, according to the non-profit group Y.O.G.A. for Youth (

The cost to society is staggering. The government and taxpayers spend $71 billion yearly for young people who drop out of school (as many as 2,833 children every day). The cost of incarceration of young offenders totals $7 billion each year.

Since 1995, the YOGA (acronym for “Your Own Greatness Affirmed”) for Youth organization founded by Krishna Kaur has taught yoga to children in juvenile detention facilities, prisons, after-school programs and other nontraditional environments. The basic idea is to provide young people – and especially at-risk and incarcerated kids – the tools they need to develop viable options that can change their lives.

Although it targets all young people, Yoga for Youth works mainly with incarcerated youths during the final months of detention, before they re-enter their communities. The program runs for about six months. It is designed to ease their transition back into a more constructive, more productive life.

Yoga for Youth instructors train participants in the techniques of yoga and meditation prior to their release. By the time they return to society, participants have learned how to manage anger, reduce stress, and handle their emotions. The yoga and meditation techniques show them alternative means of handling the stresses and emotional challenges they face daily.

Many participants report that the YOGA for youth program has helped them acquire feelings of competency, inner strength, greater determination and a general sense of optimism. Even while in prison, the participants said they could rein in their tempers more effectively and stay calm when other inmates tried to provoke them. Initial feelings of hopeless and despair would later give way to a sense of empowerment, an affirmation of their personal potential, and a deeper respect for themselves and other people.

There are at least 50 Yoga for Youth programs in Southern California, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago and other cities nationwide, and 12 sites in New York City working closely with the Department of Justice. By teaching the ancient wisdom of yoga to the young people of today, Yoga for Youth helps them leave their troubled past behind and follow the path toward personal and professional success.

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