People from all walks of life roll out their yoga mats for a practice focused on flexibility, relaxation, strength and balance. However, there is something unique about a class we were invited to attend recently. "Take a nice, deep inhale here,” demonstrates instructor Heidi Gabelman. “And exhale as those knees fall to the right." Heidi brings all the mats to the students. She is one of 20 volunteers teaching yoga to at-risk young people in our community.

It is called the Urban Lotus Project. Hannah Bias started it in 2015 after studying the practice for a few years, which she credits for changing her life. "I was a really troubled teen and I really struggled a lot in my early life and yoga has given me the strength and resilience to get up day after day." After realizing the personal benefits, she wondered who else it might help. So she launched the non-profit to target a specific portion of the population – young adults who have experienced trauma. "Things like incarceration, homelessness, addiction, violence. You name it - our kids have seen it." The Urban Lotus Project offers yoga and meditation classes at 17 locations from juvenile detention and treatment centers to non-profits, like the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project - which targets homeless, unprepared and parent-less youth. "We use a specific style of yoga that is called trauma-informed yoga, which is sensitive to the ways trauma can impact young people."    

The classes are not mandatory; there is simply an open invitation to attend, and Hannah says it is well-received. Along with the traditional benefits of yoga, the goal of this style is to help rewire the brain to think more positively and harness feelings of safety in the world. Since starting two-and-a-half years ago, Urban Lotus has reached 6,000 people, and interest continues to grow.  Why? Hannah says, “Because it works.” She says the breathing and mindfulness of yoga helps participants relax their minds, bodies while learning new strategies to face life's challenges - healthfully. "They're the ones doing the work, seeing what they're capable of and that's why it's so effective."

The Urban Lotus Project holds classes at the following locations:

Casa De Vida

Eddy House YOUth Resource Center

Encompass Academy

Human Behavior Institute

Jan Evans Juvenile Justice Center

Libby Booth Elementary

Nevada Youth Empowerment Project (NYEP)

Ridge House

The Children's Cabinet

Willow Springs Residential Treatment Center for Kids

You can support the non-profit and their efforts by attending Night of the Lotus this Sunday, December 17th from 5-7 p.m. at Roundabout Grill inside the Whitney Peak Hotel. Artists designed their interpretation of the lotus flower, and the art will be auctioned off to raise money for the Urban Lotus Project. Tickets are $15 online or at the door. To buy tickets, learn more about ULP or apply to volunteer, click on