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Yoga on the courthouse lawn, and other ways wellness advocates are transforming stressful spaces.

When you think about your commute—being stuck in traffic, late to work, low on coffee and exhausted—what feelings arise? Probably the same feelings you get when you’re called in for jury duty, or you have to go to court to fight a traffic violation. And probably the same feelings you had as a kid when you were sent to detention: stress, frustration, even anger.

So wellness advocates across the United States are flipping the script, and bringing peace and mindfulness through movement and meditation to what are typically stressful, frustration-filled spaces.

Last month, NY Waterway began offering free Tai Chi classes for commuters and those riding ferries during the week. Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art, is a gentle, meditative exercise that allows for internal reflection, and is known to reduce stress and improve focus. On weekday mornings, a certified Tai Chi instructor leads classes in the ferry terminal—so you can catch a class before or after you ride a NY Waterway shuttle. NY Waterway even offered participants the chance to win a monthly ferry pass for participating at the start of the program.

In Florida, a courthouse judge is bringing “om” to the courtroom through—you guessed it—yoga. Judge Eleni Derke, who deals with misdemeanor crimes and civil lawsuits, teaches yoga out on the front lawn of a Jacksonville courthouse. For the attorneys, it’s a great way to de-stress and reduce tension, so they can focus on doing their jobs well. But anyone is welcome to join the class, which takes place the first Friday of the month. (Just be careful not to miss your trial because you spent extra time in savasna pose.) During her trials, Derke also encourages jurors to get up out of their chairs to do breathing exercises and simple yoga movements, to keep them awake and to keep the blood flowing.

Yoga, it seems, isn’t only beneficial to those headed into court. Last year in Baltimore, Maryland, an elementary school started experimenting with meditation and yoga instead of detention. When problems arise, students are sent to the “Mindful Moment Room” to stretch, do a few yoga moves and practice meditation and deep breathing exercises. Students are taught to be mindful, and to calm themselves through meditative practices. The results, according to teachers and school staff, have been noticeably positive. The elementary school’s principal has reported that since the inception of the meditation room, the school suspension rate has dropped, attendance has increased, and she’s seen fewer children in her office requiring disciplinary action.

These are just three examples of how wellness advocates are incorporating meditative practices into daily life. We already know how powerful movement can be: Gentle movements such as walking or yoga release tension and stress, exercise creates happy endorphins and meditation calms and soothes our minds. But very rarely do we practice these outside the four walls of our home or the gym. Integrating these practices in whatever space we find ourselves just may be the key to deescalating everyday problems—or resolve them before they arise.

Photo credit: oneinchpunch, Adobe Stock

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