Juvenile detention centers use yoga to teach mindfulness

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Ten young men file into the gym, wearing identical maroon polos, white undershirts, navy sweats, white socks and black, laceless shoes. Soon, they’re removing those shoes and placing them behind 10 royal-blue yoga mats, rolled out on the basketball court floor.

The gym smells faintly of sweat and rubber, and life-size posters of Ravens football players are displayed around the room’s cinder block walls.

The two instructors lead the boys in slow, calming breaths, and show them how to roll their heads in lethargic circles to stretch and loosen up their necks.

“Do what’s comfortable for you,” one says.

If not for the guards, this could be any school gym — but the yoga and mindfulness class that’s about to begin serves boys in a secure detention center in Baltimore.

The young men living here are waiting to face their respective trials, or waiting to be placed at a treatment center — many of them haven’t yet been adjudicated, the equivalent of “convicted” in adult courts.

They inhale up, exhale down, inhale back, exhale forward, moving through sunrise salutations.

The boys who will be tried as juveniles usually stay in the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center for 20 days or fewer, while those who are waiting to be tried as adults, for more serious crimes, can stay for months.

In order to protect the identities of these juveniles, Capital News Service was not given any information on what offenses they are being accused of or why they may be awaiting treatment.

One 16-year-old boy from Baltimore, whose name is not being used, said he’d been at the center five months when interviewed on Sept. 25. He’s been in the yoga program, which rotates through the facility’s housing groups, for about a month and a half.

He said he initially wasn’t looking forward to the class.

“I thought it was gonna be boring,” the teen said. “It’s way better than I thought.”

To read more of this article by Savannah Williams of the Associated Press, click here.

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