Could a unique type of yoga help reduce the risk of homelessness in youth? That is the focus of a new study at the Lawson Health Research Institute.

A team of researchers will be examining the benefits of a program using a combination of social-emotional learning skills and breathing techniques for youth at risk of homelessness.

The Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!), created and taught by the Art of Living Foundation, has been developed for youth to learn skills for stress management, emotion regulation and conflict resolution.

There are two major components to YES! training that can be implemented in everyday life: social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and breathing techniques for energy and stress management referred to as Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY).

Meera Sharma participated in the YES! Program when she was thirteen. She says it helped her settle down and gave her a path to follow without fear.

“It’s very disorienting, as a teenager, to try and figure out where you’re going or what you are going to do with your life and there is a lot of pressure on you. These programs, doing the yoga and the meditation skills, really help you calm down and have better relationships with your peers, with your parents and with your colleagues.”

Dr. Akshya Vasudev, psychiatrist and Lawson associate scientist says they want to see if this same program could improve resiliency in those considered to be at-risk of homelessness in this region, and lead to improved long-term outcomes such as reintegrating back into the community and reducing drug use.

“We are very interested to help youth out there suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression. Or might even be having a risk of homeless, primarily because they are struggling,” says Vasudev.

The research team is looking for about 60 at-risk youth ages 16-25 to enroll in the study and complete the program.

They hope this initial pilot study will provide vital information and signal the need for a larger controlled study looking at the feasibility and benefits of this intervention.

Youth interested in participating are encouraged to call 519-685-8500 ext. 74912 or email emily.ionson at for more details.