YJ People’s Choice Seva Award scholarship nominee, Good Karma Awards
Mary Lynn Fitton
Founder, The Art of Yoga Project
Palo Alto, California
Mary Lynn Fitton has a commitment to young women’s health, empowerment, and well-being. Trained as a neuroscience nurse and a family nurse practitioner, she began teaching yoga in 1998 after recognizing yoga’s potential benefits for her patients who had anxiety, depression, addiction, and self-harming behaviors. She also felt that yoga was inaccessible to many girls, particularly those who perhaps needed it most.
So in 2002, Mary Lynn created The Art of Yoga Project to help at-risk teen girls involved in the juvenile justice system develop personal accountability and free themselves from cycles of violence and victimization. The program brought together two things that had shaped Mary Lynn’s own development as a woman: It combined yoga’s physical and meditative exercises for strength, self-reflection, and centering with the expressive power of creative arts and writing. Both yoga and the arts act as healthy alternatives to self-destructive behaviors and as a way for girls who have survived trauma to regulate their emotions, discover their own voices, and find lifelong healing and joy.
Adopted by the juvenile justice system in three California counties, The Art of Yoga Project helps more than 700 at-risk, incarcerated, and exploited teen girls a year in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as thousands more through its affiliates nationwide.