Yoga Benefits Young Victims Of Physical And Sexual Abuse


Girls in the juvenile justice system are twice as likely to report past physical abuse than are boys in the system, and 35 percent of young female offenders have experienced sexual abuse, compared to 8 percent of young male offenders.

To address the psychological effects of abuse so many girls face, the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality published a review of more than 40 studies assessing the benefits of yoga for young female offenders with a history of physical and (or) sexual trauma.

Yoga's Influence

Yoga is a type of moving meditation that focuses attention on the body in a positive way. People exert control over their body’s movements, position, and their breathing. As the body becomes stronger, more fluid, and flexible, people’s perceptions about themselves, and life, can alter as well.

The Georgetown report states that mind-body interventions such as yoga can uniquely address the effects of trauma. The physical activity, for instance, improves overall health, and regulated breathing soothes the parasympathetic nervous system. Plus, the practice of staying present moment by moment helps alleviate the dissociative effects of traumatic events.

Measurable Benefits

The positive influence of yoga on girls in the juvenile justice system is measurable. Fights in the wards decline, medications are sought less frequently, and fewer complaints are registered. Other observed yoga benefits include:

  • Better emotional regulation and awareness, and improved coping skills owed to a restoration of neural pathways.
  • Increased body awareness, sense of connectedness to the body, and sense of personal power.
  • Improved relationship skills.
  • Alleviation of stress related nervous system imbalances leading to physical and psychological health improvements.

Yoga has also been shown effective for the relief of depression, anxiety, and PTSD by promoting the release of brain chemicals such as GABA (gamma amino-butyric acid).

Cost Effective and Sustainable

Beside the invaluable mental and emotional health benefits, the Georgetown reviewers find yoga a “cost-effective and sustainable” means of helping to heal the trauma underlying much problematic behavior. The researchers believe existing health laws should be interpreted to allow mindfulness and yoga programs in juvenile justice settings, and that existing programs should improve by including “sensitivity to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

Further, learning yoga can conceivably help young women avoid future run-ins with the law. It is a skill that can help them manage daily challenges for the rest of their lives.

Source: Mercola Fitness
Photo credit: Kellinahandbasket

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