School of Thought
School of Thought—NOLA’s Youth Benefit from Yoga & Mindfulness
We are indeed living in a fast-paced go world. Adults may have learned the art of balance while carving out personal and professional time for their family, job, as well as social, fitness or creative and spiritual activities. Adults have the opportunity to engage in conversations with other adults who share their tips on ways to find balance, perhaps even solace when dealing with life challenges. The mature mind has the luxury of knowing how to turn everything off, to seek a quiet place or to reach out and find peace.
Our youth have tons going on too. School then after-school activities, some may have jobs, and family commitments or responsibilities such as serving as a babysitter to siblings or helping other relatives. How often have we as adults or parents thought of the value and importance of sharing yoga and meditation with youth/children? Not surprisingly, children or young adults can find it quite challenging to bring his/her mind and body to stillness, and in fact, it’s an unrealistic expectation for our youth to obtain “Zen” as adults do.
The approach to teaching mindfulness and the moving meditation of Yoga to youth and children, therefore, is unique. Activities that focus on using the five senses, engagement, movement, and expression are developmentally more appropriate for teaching the practice of Mindfulness.
NOLA is fortunate to have forward thinkers who have made a positive impact in our city that can potentially have a profound positive global effect for our future. NALA had the opportunity to speak with Chelsea Hylton, Founder of Peaceful Warriors, who is bringing Yoga & Mindfulness to our Schools.
Who: In 2013, Chelsea made her move from Charleston to New Orleans in order to start teaching as an enrichment teacher in local charter schools and quickly noticed a cultural shift that had a tangible impact on those communities and students. Digging into the issues, what Chelsea discovered was staggering statistics. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network 25% of American youth experience a serious traumatic event before the age of 16 and 79% of youth in New Orleans have experienced one or more traumatic events by age 16, 1 in 5 screen positive for lifetime PTSD. Rather than let the obstacles facing these students overwhelm her, Chelsea spotted an opportunity for empowering change. “I grew up with two addicts, experienced trauma, and knew the personal benefit of yoga. These students need a more specific type of yoga taught to them and they need a smaller group setting to meet more individual needs.”
What: Next Chelsea began to deepen her experience through specialized trauma trainings, developed a more solid foundation in the physical, mental, psychological, and social background of trauma, and began to develop a plan for integrating trauma-informed yoga programs into the community. Through her study and her experience, she knew that the classrooms were the perfect setting to empower students, educators, school leaders, and care takers with the tools of trauma-aware yoga and mindfulness in an academic setting. According to Chelsea, “having yoga in a school and during the day helps the process because it’s already safe. When the students feel safe and supported, it increases the yoga’s impact on the students because they’re more receptive. There is trust there.”
The Birth of an Idea: In 2015 Chelsea pitched Project Peaceful Warriors at a contest. Although she was rejected, Chelsea deemed it to be one of the “best things that could have ever happened.” The constructive feedback and resources she received helped her to prototype and hone Project Peaceful Warriors even further. In March 2016, Chelsea made her pitch again during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week at the 4.0 Schools Pitch Contest for Education and was able to clinch $7,000 in funding for her programs. Project Peaceful Warriors an effective and sustainable force for change for New Orleans youth.
Where: Schools, Yoga Studios, and Community Partners—PW works with 8 school programs and 3 youth-serving community organizations and have worked with over 900 students and 250 teachers since launching in 2015. They have launched a pilot program at Lusher with the support of the Tulane School of Public Health so that they can have concrete measures and data on the impact of programming. Listed partnerships including Yoga studios around town that offer free or a nominal drop in fee for all levels community classes listed on www.peacefulwarrior.com (Yoga for everyone page).
Why: We Do It-Empowerment through Peace—The prevalence of trauma in New Orleans youth requires many facets of healing, empowering youth with the tools of yoga and mindfulness can serve as an immediate therapeutic modality and positively impact their healing process and success in the classroom. Trauma not only affects psychological functioning, but it also manifests in the body physically as well. It disrupts social-emotional development in youth hindering the ability to develop proper social relationships and manifests as poor self-regulation skills, altered perceptions of safety, normative beliefs about aggression, and feelings of low self-worth, guilt, and shame. The number of traumatic experiences in childhood is the second most powerful predictor of academic failure.
There is evidence based studies that indicate moments of silence, structured relaxation times, visualization exercises, and activities that foster intentional movement are relevant and engaging for youth and children. Once they have discovered that place of stillness within themselves and become more connected and present. How beautiful to find “Zen” as a youth and use this as momentum for peace.
How: Taking the time to use the practice, students are empowered to experience their minds, bodies and feelings in a safe place to begin, sustain, and deepen their healing process. Chelsea shared, “these kids are not there to try and fix themselves or look good, it’s internal, it’s deeper than that and they feel it.” Through our program and partnerships like Yoga Ed., Project Peaceful Warriors is going to be able to grow their staff, seeing more teachers in more schools. And they’ll be able to see schools becoming more self-sufficient by training teachers from within using Yoga Ed. curricula. With an educational culture in New Orleans so open and enthusiastic toward innovation, the future for Project Peaceful Warriors, and the youth they serve, just keeps getting brighter.
If you want to see and hear the profound impact from the Peaceful Warrior students go to www.peacefulwarriors.com and click the “Words from our Warriors” and “Watch us in Action” links.