Sarah Thomas is definitely not one who feels that yoga is a luxury just for the privileged. To her, it is a way of teaching life skills to some of the at-risk youth in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For the past three years, Sarah has been rolling out her large suitcase full of sticky mats as well as lugging a bag of thick, colorful Mexican blankets in and out of detention centers, youth shelters, psychiatric treatment facilities and nearly every other alternative education program in town.
“When they see me for the first time, I know they think, ‘Who is this crazy hippie lady with the oils and mats?’ But these places are kind of forgotten. Yoga is something healthy for their body, soul and mind. It’s a great way to de-stress for kids who come from really, really bad places,” she stated. The effect caused by just a single class with Sarah was pretty evident in the behavior of the ten girls who gathered in front of her at the Tulsa County Juvenile Detention Center. Initially, one of the girls was sobbing uncontrollably in a corner. There were also three other girls who were doing and saying anything they could to disrupt the class and those who were actually taking it seriously.
However, after just 45 minutes, the girl that was crying along with the three class clowns and everyone else were laying in silence under the warmth of those heavy blankets. According to those observing, this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Sarah’s sereneness and special training in working with at-risk youths. “She tries to give them tools to be better while they’re here and on the outside. Yoga is especially good for young women who have experienced trauma, because when you’ve experienced trauma, you become detached from your body. Yoga shows them how to use their body to become strong physically and emotionally,” explained Paula Royce, director of girls programming for the Juvenile Bureau.
Sarah has been developing over fifty topics for each of her classes. However, she would only address these topics in a very subtle manner between yoga poses and during quiet time. For more of the story, you can refer to it here.
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