Freedom on the Inside

Profiled in newspapers, magazines, and on the news, Mind Body Awareness Project (MBA) helps young people focus on discovering internal freedom through yoga and meditation. Ultimately, their work is about creating a positive future for young people who’ve begun their lives in a hard place, giving them things they would never have discovered on their own.

One of their missions “is to empower incarcerated and at-risk youth with direct access to tools, competencies and emotional stamina needed to control impulses, manage aggression, and reduce stress. [They also] provide youth with powerful new methods of responding to the challenges they face in the present, so they can build a foundation for healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives in the future. It is [their] experience that youth who possess more positive internal assets such as high self-esteem and self reliance, social and emotional competency, and positive values are more likely to lead successful, satisfying, and productive lives as adults in [their] community.”

Omar Turcios, who studied yoga in the MBA program, “credits yoga for turning [him], a hot-tempered teen into a level-headed construction worker.” He told ABC News, “’I was an angry person. Anger management never worked. This class for some reason I felt relaxed, at ease.’”

Several of the folks on staff or on the board at MBA know exactly what the kids they teach are going through. Vinny Ferraro, for instance, tells his story of growing up hustling in the streets of Connecticut. He was turned around one night by a homeless guy he was beating, who looked at him and said, “’You’ve got more compassion in your eyes than any woman I’ve ever met.’” The beating stopped, and Vinny never forgot that moment. Now at MBA he helps young people not unlike that youthful version of himself.

MBA classes are all voluntary. Because participants are so often trying to figure out why they are in detention and trying to figure out how to make more positive choices, the classes and support they offer comes at the perfect time. Students don’t have much to distract them, and have a chance to try something that they might otherwise pass off as “weird.” It gives them a chance to fill in the questions about themselves they live with every day while they’re in detention or even following lock up.  Because of the mind-body practices, the answers often come from themselves.

MBA programs include:

• Probation Interventions: Helps youth in probation programs develop healthy lifestyles

• Aftercare: MBA works with youth right after their release

• Education & Medical: Supports young people in detention suffering from anxiety

• Capacity Building & Training: Working with organizations that serve young people

More about MBA

 Vinny Ferraro’s Story

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