New Brunswick

A good stretch: yoga teacher learns from young addicts

Saint John high school teacher Amanda Hodgin says the yoga classes she teaches to young women with drug problems has changed her view of her regular students.

Even academic stars can wind up on a path to drug abuse, Amanda Hodgin finds

Amanda Hodgin says teaching yoga to young women trying to overcome addiction has changed her. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

A  high school teacher in Saint John says the yoga classes she teaches to young women with drug problems has changed her view of her regular students.

"When I walk into my classrooms at high school, I understand now that just because it looks like a student has it all together with their marks, [it] doesn't always mean that's true with their outside life," Amanda Hodgin said.

Hodgin, a math teacher at Harbour View High School, leads yoga classes at Portage Atlantic, a young adult rehabilitation centre near Sussex.

"It has opened my eyes to what people with drug addictions are really like," she said. "For me, I always thought there was something lacking in a child's upbringing to cause them to be in a situation like that."

Since she began volunteering at the centre in March 2013, she has met young women from "perfectly wonderful" families.

They've led advantaged lives and appeared headed for university and success, when "somehow, something falls off the rails," she said.

"Things can be falling apart when they look like they're holding it together."

​Portage Atlantic isn't far from Hodgin's Hampton house, and she thought being one of three yoga instructors there would be a good way to volunteer.

Still, she wasn't expecting the impact the classes would have, not only on the young women trying to overcome addiction but also on herself.

Finding the balance

​The centre helps young adults between 14 and 21 years of age. Hodgin's classes are just for the young women and average 13 students.

She remembers when a new group arrived at the centre in a riled-up state, not wanting to be in rehab.

When new people enter rehab, she said, it can sometimes upset the balance that others are striving for.

"You could see the tension in their bodies," she said of her students. "When I asked what's wrong, one girl started to cry."

At that moment, she realized teaching the class wasn't about her or the way she wanted to conduct it. It was about the women who needed it.

Focused on calm

She changed her teaching methods then and there.

"I actually gave them a yoga class that was very meditative, very calming, very soothing and very quiet," she said.

At the end, two of the women gave her a hug.

"Another one was like, 'I needed that so much. That was the best thing in the world.'"

Teaching yoga has brought balance to own her life, too, Hodgin said.

She tends to stress out if everything in her life isn't organized. Now, if she can't get something photocopied right away, she knows the walls won't come crashing down.

And with Christmas coming, Hodgin is keeping Portage Atlantic centred in her mind.

Amanda Hodgin has bought adult colouring books and colouring pencils for the Portage patients she teaches yoga. Although she doesn’t teach the men at Portage Atlantic, she bought them writing journals. (Joseph Tunney)
With the help of fundraising by friends and family, she has been collecting presents for the women in her class.

She bought adult colouring books and colouring pencils, something she has worked with in her yoga sessions. She bought writing journals for the men at the rehab centre. 

That's 40 gifts she bought with the help of friends and family who helped raise the money.

She hopes the gifts, 40 in all, can help the young adults even in a small way during their three-day holiday visit home.

"You never know what Christmas at home is really going to be like," she said.