Mindful Movement at Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention

When I left San Francisco in August to globe-trot, the thing I was saddest to leave behind was my time teaching yoga at San Francisco’s Juvenile Detention Facility. I had spent every Wednesday morning for a year-and-half there, teaching trauma-informed yoga to all residents.Wednesday mornings quickly became my anchor activity in the hustle and bustle of the city and for as much as I taught, I learned even more.

When I returned home to Charlottesville in December–I had been living in California for four years and New Mexico for almost two–I immediately contacted the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention facility to see what kind of yoga and mindfulness programming they offered.Upon learning that they did not offer yoga or mindfulness education at the facility, I scheduled a meeting for early March. Friend and entrepreneur, Erin Henshaw, joined me in this preliminary meeting. We were thrilled to be welcomed with open arms by a team of administrators who were eager to start the kind of program I had in in mind. It became clear that between Erin and I–and the overwhelming support of our community–we could launch a powerful program for youth at the facility.

I contacted Common Ground to see if they might be able to serve as our primary sponsor and they eagerly agreed to provide the infrastructure we needed to begin right away. We cannot thank Elliott Brown and Paige Ryan enough for all their support and encouragement. Now, we are almost half-way through our 8-week pilot Mindful Movement program at BRJD and it has been an amazing journey! The youth are learning to regulate their nervous systems through breath, send loving kindness to themselves and their loved ones on “the outs,” to cultivate non-judgement for themselves and others, and to move mindfully with breath, honoring their bodies, hearts and minds.

Last week, we asked them what their experience was of the “Mindful Chill Time”–what we’ve dubbed the meditation and savasana period at the end of our classes. One student answered, “I feel like I’m dreaming but I’m aware of everything that’s going on around me. I don’t know what this is, but it’s good.” We were moved to tears as the students shared their heart-felt experiences of the program. The staff member who joined the practice, a site mental health counselor, said, “Thank you for this. It changed my perspective. I don’t think I’ve ever been so calm. Ever.” Wow. This stuff really works!

I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring the tools of mindfulness and yoga to the youth and staff at BRJD and endlessly grateful for all the pieces that have come together to make this program a reality.

Love and light,
Julia & Erin

For more info on the Mindful Movement program at BRJD,  contact Julia J. at jjvonbriesen@gmail.com.

julia-j-von-briesenAbout Julia J. von Briesen:
Having always been an avid athlete with a meditation practice, Julia has been most challenged by practicing yoga. She considers her yoga mat a “magic carpet” that literally carries a person through physical, emotional and spiritual transformations, healing from the past, strengthening mindfulness and attention to the here and now, and opening space for the future. A certified health coach, Julia is a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition as well as a graduate of Pete Guinosso’s 200 hour teacher training in San Francisco. She has also completed several Vipassana meditation courses as taught by S.N. Goenka that influence her yoga teaching. Experience the integration of your breath and body in a loving and playful Vinyasa class with Julia.

erin-henshawAbout Erin Lee Henshaw:
Yoga. Tea. Adventure. Connection. Human Potential. These interests have taken me from my hometown of Vienna, Virginia to study in Spain, work in China and practice yoga in India. Wherever I go, I am transformed by my environment, and find pleasure in sharing my energy with others.  I have a background in events and corporate team-building, completed a 200-Hr Hatha YTT in Rishikesh, am certified in LifeForce Yoga, teach mindfulness in public schools and am the co-founder of The Mind Body Project in China and the US.  My teaching style combines traditional yogic practice with modern neuroscience, to facilitate personal evolution and thriving. I believe that when you do science with your brain and body, any activity can be your yoga.

Wherever you are is the entry point. I don’t believe that students need to wear particular clothes, have a certain body type or even practice yoga on a mat. I welcome all people into my classes, and hope to meet you where you are, creating space in the body to feel openness in the mind.