The Art of Yoga Project
The Art of Yoga Project is an organization that seeks to rehabilitate teenage girls in the juvenile justice system by teaching them art, yoga, and journaling. The program was founded in 2002 by yoga teacher and nurse practitioner Mary Lynn Fitton, and it became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2005.
Method of operation
The Art of Yoga Project currently teaches in several sites in California, including the Margaret J. Kemp Camp for Girls (part of the San Mateo County Juvenile Correctional Facility in San Mateo, California), the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center, and the James Ranch Residential Center in San Jose, California. The project has a curriculum that runs for a fall, winter, spring and summer session. Generally the girls in the program participate once or twice a week in a two-hour class, practicing yoga for the first part of the class and transitioning into art (such as painting, collages, and crafts) and journaling for the second part. Studies have shown that practicing yoga produces a number of biochemical responses that reduce stress and improve one's mood. After the participants leave the justice system, the Project tries to provide each girl with a yoga mat, a journal, the art she created in the program, and a list of local studios where she can practice for free. "Program sites" on theartofyogaproject.org/ref>
Mary Lynn Fitton founded the Art of Yoga Project after noticing the widespread body image issues, teen pregnancies, and physical and sexual abuse among teenage girls she worked with as a nurse practitioner. She felt that yoga could be a way to improve the self-esteem of teenage girls trapped in a cycle of negativity. A large proportion of girls in the juvenile justice system are survivors of physical or sexual abuse, come from homes where domestic violence is common, and have engaged in self-inflicted violence.
In 2008, AYP served approximately 400 girls from the Juvenile Justice Systems in San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco Counties.
Key outcomes from 2008 winter and spring participant evaluations:
80% reported that they "often" or "always" talk more easily with their therapists since they started doing yoga
100% reported that they respected themselves more and had more positive thoughts about themselves, with 80% doing so often or almost everyday.
100% of girls reported using breathing techniques outside of class
90% reported that yoga helped them manage their anger either sometimes, often, or almost everyday
80% of the girls agreed or strongly agreed that the spring program kept them from doing harm to themselves
100% of students reported that since they started doing yoga, meditation and creative arts, they can focus better in school.
- "About us" on theartofyogaproject.org
- "Current Program Sites" on theartofyogaproject.org
- Devon Ward-Thommes, Spirituality and Health Magazine, May/June 2005, pg. 25
- "Yoga's Health Benefits" on www.webmd.com
- "Yoga in Action" on http://commongroundmag.com/2008/04/oor_8_0804.html
- Diane Anderson, Yoga Journal, October 2007, pg. 19-20
- "Women and the Criminal Justice System" on thecenterforgenderandjustice.org
- AYP Annual report, 2008
- Palo Alto Weekly, Health and Fitness, Bad girls doing time learn art and yoga. Rehabilitation program teaches self-calming and accountability, February 14, 2007