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Yoga - Oddball or Hardball?

One of the Chevron-sponsored mailers you have probably received tried to make fun of Dr. Jeff Ritterman for supporting yoga in schools and the criminal justice system. Dr. Ritterman’s response is reprinted below.


It turns out that Dr. Ritterman (yes, a real doctor) knows what he is talking about.


Yoga is being used successfully in a variety of public school and criminal justice applications right here in the Bay Area. Following are some examples:


Oakland Unified School District
Dewy Academy and Street Academy. Provides health and leadership tools for dealing successfully with stress, increases focus and attention for enhanced academic potential, and creates positive role models in our schools and communities.

Berkeley Unified School District
Washington Elementary School. This program is designed to help young people build self-esteem and self-control to make healthier life choices. There is a strong focus on self-empowerment, to enable the realization of their full potential, and improve academic skills.

Oakland Parks and Recreation - Allendale Recreation Center
Requested by West Oakland youth, this program provides anger-management and violence-prevention tools for dealing with the pervasive presence of daily trauma and constant threat of violence. The program provides self-awareness and resistance skills for at-risk youth.

Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center
Provides a comprehensive, multi-component discipline of Yoga, Breathwork, and Meditation for incarcerated youth in the B2 Mental Health Unit five days a week, and for all Juvenile Hall staff weekly. The nature and magnitude of this intervention makes it unique across the country. Preliminary program evaluation results indicate a statistically significant decrease in stress and increase in self-control, and has elicited an overwhelmingly positive response from youth and staff. Please see summary and report for more details on evaluation results.

Camp Wilmont Sweeney

Seneca Center - Violence-Prevention Program
Niroga works with Seneca to provide violence-prevention programs at Rock La Fleche Community Day School, an Alameda County Alternative High School for delinquent youth. This program began in 2005, and is documented in Niroga's 8-minute video on youth development.


What we need in Richmond are some new and fresh ideas that address serious local problems and challenges, particularly ones that yield high returns for low expenditures.


----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Jeff Ritterman <jeffritterman@yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2008 9:33:25 AM
Subject: response to accusations

Dear Richmond residents,


Yesterday I received a mailer paid for by Chevron Corporation accusing me of oddball ideas because I support yoga in schools and in the criminal justice system and because I support urban agriculture.


Let me take a moment to discuss some of these ideas which are not oddball at all but exactly what we need to do in Richmond.


Niroga Institute (http://www.niroga.org/) has pioneered yoga in the criminal justice system for 2 years in Alameda County Juvenile Hall where young people are incarcerated.  Two years of daily yoga instruction has resulted in significantly lower stress levels in the youth.  This was scientifically documented by Dr. Ai Kubo, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research.


I joined the Board of Directors of Niroga Institute last year precisely because I know the value of this work in helping our young people.  I joined the board with the stipulation that Niroga bring this exciting work to Richmond.  I am happy to report that Niroga will be teaching classes in Kennedy High School, El Cerrito High School, the RHYSE Center and the Richmond Children's Fund's charter school.  In addition Niroga is training minority yoga instructors so that the work will result in job creation for Richmond's residents and the teachers of the classes will be from our neighborhoods.


For more on Niroga's amazing work click on this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu_43vx50AE


In partnership for a Healthier Richmond,

Jeff Ritterman, MD