TEACHING YOGA TO YOUTH IN JUVENILE HALL
BY JORDAN YOUNGER PHOTOS BY ANDREW VEIS
Disturbing facts can lead to taking action – at
least it did for Jill Weiss – when she learned that
more than 82 percent of children in the foster care
system have been sexually exploited, often sold by
pimps, and that Los Angeles is the second largest hub in the U.S. for sex trafficking. Her action:
building a team of teachers to offer yoga to youth
in LA County’s Central Juvenile Hall, with a
larger vision of bringing yoga into neighborhoods
where the practice is currently unavailable.
UpRising Yoga shifted from an idea to action with
the support of Bikram Choudhury’s wife, Rajashree and the backing of the entire Bikram Yoga
community. With the cooperation of the Los Angeles County Probation Department, Weiss and the
UpRising Yoga team teach yoga to boys and girls
in the in Central Juvenile Hall in downtown Los
Angeles every Tuesday evening. Certified and experienced teachers observe before leading classes
in the barracks-like living quarters.
Testimonials document the program’s impact.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe
wrote the following in a blog post, “Yoga Key to
Drop in Violence at LA’s Central Juvenile Hall:
Yoga programs are being taught to boys and girls
in LA County’s Central Juvenile Hall and it is re-
sulting in less violence and confrontation among
Participants note the impact. One Tuesday night,
a little boy leaned over to Weiss to say, “Miss, I
wanted to tell you, I’ve been practicing this on the
outside.” This statement confirmed to Weiss how
hungry these kids are to learn yoga.