At-Risk Youths Find Inner Peace One Breath at a Time
Design by Danielle Velazquez
You’re angry. Someone is coming at you with verbal abuses and their fists, and your first reaction is to fight back, to protect yourself. You inhale deeply, move into Tadasana… and then find yourself fully present, completely free of anger. And then you walk away.
Positive Choices through Yoga and Meditation (PCYM) is a program which provides meditation, yoga, art therapy, and spiritual training for at-risk youth. The scenario just mentioned is a description of an actual encounter that took place with one of the program’s students. When confronted by a rival gang member, this young man was faced with the decision to either fight and violate his probation or choose to apply the teachings of the program. He chose the latter and thus was able to walk away from the fight.
A DIFFICULT AGE
In times like these, when most children are exposed to violence, drugs, media, and high levels of stress on a daily basis, they need an outlet to release all that negative energy. Unfortunately for many of them, especially those who are underprivileged, they do not know how to harness that energy within them. The need to release it then translates to outbursts of violence, inward self-hate, and other destructive behaviors.
POSITIVE CHOICES THROUGH YOGA AND MEDITATION
Positive Choices through Yoga and Meditation (PCYM) is the brainchild of former Deputy Probation Officer and certified yoga instructor, Gina Tricamo. After working with juvenile offenders and teaching yoga in police stations, witnessing firsthand the “bittersweet sorrow” of institutionalization, Gina developed and implemented a unique program for at-risk youth that would eventually become an accredited curriculum at City Heights Community School (a maximum security Juvenile Court/Community school under the jurisdiction of the San Diego County Office of Education). For 10 weeks, Gina guided her 22 students, some of whom are on probation or have gang affiliations, on “a powerful journey of personal and emotional freedom.” Through instruction in yoga and meditation as well as stress/anger management techniques, her young PCYM students learned how to become fully present in body and spirit, think positive, and act positive.
PRAISE FOR THE PCYM PROGRAM
Pamela Moorehead witnessed an improvement in the interactions of her students who participated in the PCYM Program. Pamela wrote, “When faced with anger, they would practice their yoga breathing techniques. It is these techniques that [students say] helped them to remain focused and resolve issues in a positive way.
This new ability to resolve situations in their best interest began to build in the students a sense of self-confidence, which raised their self-esteem. Raising the self-esteem helped the students to become positive risk takers to attempt activities they once felt incompetent about. Students walk away from activities and situations feeling a sense if positive accomplishment.” Here is what a few PCYM students had to say:
“Thank you for putting peace in my mind." - Caesar
"Thanks for the yoga, the inner peace and the solace." - Richard
"...it was really fun and educational. I really liked it, especially how to control your temper, and thanks for working with me when my knee was messed up." - Marelyn
We’ve long known the various benefits of yoga and meditation; these ancient practices are powerful instruments for change on both a physical and spiritual level. Needless to say, positive thought has the ability to change the way at-risk youths view themselves and the world around them. As a society which is just beginning to realize the impact of spirituality in the mainstream, the PCYM Program takes a bold step in the right direction. Positive Choices through Yoga and Meditation is next scheduled to be implemented at the CRASH Rehabilitation Program in City Heights, San Diego.
A resident of San Diego, CA for the past 22 years, Gina graduated from the University of San Diego with a B.A. in Psychology, with an emphasis in Cultural Counseling. In 2006, she resigned from her position as a Debuty Probation Officer to pursue teaching yoga as an alternative and complementary solution for the health and well-being of all populations. Gina is a certified yoga instructor and is registered with Yoga Alliance. In addition to being a private yoga therapist, she has also been a Volunteer Assistant for IDEA World Fitness and Inner IDEA since 2002. To learn more about the PCYM Program or for more information on implementing this curriculum to your organization, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If we all take one deep breath, the intent and vibration of that breath will go out into the universe and heal.” - Gina Tricamo
Article Written By: Kimberly Kong; Kimberly is a graduate of FIDM in Los Angeles.