Innovation Station Spotlight: Engaging Youth Through Yoga
October 2018

Eileen Hough, MPH
Nevada Title V MCH Adolescent Health and Wellness Program Coordinator
Division of Public and Behavioral Health


Urban Lotus Project provides trauma-informed yoga and mindful awareness to at-risk and underserved adolescents in Reno, Nevada, and surrounding areas to promote physical activity and provide stress-reduction tools. The project practices youth engagement strategies throughout its classes striving to form a safe environment for adolescents to explore their physical, mental, and emotional health capabilities.

To start, instructors create a space for adolescents to feel safe and experience encouragement from supportive adults, even when they are conducting the classes in locations where adolescents may feel uncomfortable, such as youth detention centers and mental health facilities. Amid loud noises and disruptive behaviors, the instructors guide students to look inward and find a place of peace, calm, and quiet.

In class, adolescents are taught that life may be hard and stressful; however, they have the power to choose their response to those hardships. The yoga instructors provide opportunities for adolescents to engage as learners and leaders, as well as build self-esteem and leadership skills. One facility permits adolescents to lead the class in a posture. When students take on this leadership role, the instructors observe self-confidence, peer recognition, appreciation, creativity, and growth.

It is common for a student to offer kind words of calm to his or her peer and welcome them back to the yoga practice after an episode of disruptive behavior. Engaging with supportive instructors and each other is one of the ways adolescents exposed to these yoga courses gain skills to lead productive, healthy lives.