Project Peaceful Warriors
Chelsea Hylton is an educator teaching trauma informed yoga and mindfulness in New Orleans Charter schools, and founder of Project Peaceful Warriors. Chelsea has been teaching Kid’s Yoga in title one schools since 2009 and recognized the huge need to address the trauma experienced by her students along the way.
Read our interview with Chelsea and join us at the National Kids Yoga Conference in September to hear more from her!
How long have you been teaching kids yoga? What inspired you to get started?
I have been serving students and kids through yoga since 2010. I was inspired to begin this work from my own practice that started around age 12 and growth and tools it empowered me to cultivate as I have grown up. I was inspired to begin my trauma-informed work from my move to New Orleans and seeing the lack of services and support for students trying to navigate through the emotions and experiences of trauma. My personal past experiences of trauma and the healing pathways yoga created for me inspired me to share this work with my students.
Tell us a bit more about your work. Who is the community or population that you serve?
I teach trauma informed yoga and mindfulness in Title One Charter Schools in the New Orleans area. 89% of the students I serve have experienced one or more traumatic events by the age of 16, 83% have been exposed to community or domestic violence, 39% worry about not being loved. I work with students, as well as their teachers, from PreK all the way through High School equipping them with tools through yoga and mindfulness to help them cope in the classroom and become impactful members of their communities.
What are the specific ways you think yoga can be helpful for kids?
I believe yoga and mindfulness empowers students with tools and skills they can use for a lifetime. It teaches them to self-regulate, grows self confidence, improves self awareness, and cultivates self advocacy. My students typically do not learn these skills at home or at school, yoga gives them that opportunity.
Tell us about that one pivotal experience—the student, class or moment—that keeps you going even when your work gets challenging.
I have had a number of pivotal experiences teaching and with my students that keep me going, one no more important or impactful than the other. I think back to working to a group of 13 middle school boys who grew from thinking yoga was the worst thing ever to watching them teach each other. I remember the student who ripped apart my entire classroom (everything off the walls, throwing desks, and yoga mats) during my first observation who came to me at the end of the year telling me he used his yoga breathing every night because he was scared to sleep at home. I think back to the student who started the year off with the highest number of behavior incidents in the school who started asking his teacher to take a meditation break during class so he could control his actions. I come back to these things, and many more every day.
Who or what inspires you the most in your work?
My students. They are resilient, powerful, and always bring a new perspective to my day, my life, and my practice. They see the world through a very different lens, and in a society where it’s easy to get caught up in your own, they bring me back out and to life.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Having my students tell me stories about when they used their yoga tools outside of class and how it was able to help them.
What brings you the deepest joy in your own yoga practice and in sharing yoga with kids?
Healing. Healing both myself, and watching my students heal.
What yoga pose do you use to help bring kids back to the present moment?
My favorite pose to use with my students to bring them back to the present moment is child’s pose. They can go from bouncing across the room with the most energy and noise, to silent and still rocks in a split second. I also love simple seat while using madras and positive affirmations to re-center in both my personal practice and teaching.
Describe your vision for the future of kids yoga.
I see an integration and collaboration of education and mindfulness in all schools to empower minds and change communities.
Chelsea Hylton will be presenting at the National Kids Yoga Conference in Washington, DC. Click here to register for this amazing event.