Dawn Slykuis did something crazy so others wouldn’t go crazy.
She opened a yoga studio in the middle of a pandemic.
But any concerns Slykhuis had about the viability of her business were trumped by a desire to forge new connections with a population she’s been helping for 17 years as a counsellor for youth in crisis.
Slykhuis said as anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic escalated last spring, she was seeing more and more young people struggling to cope with things like diminished connections to their friends, the loss of extracurricular activities like sports and even an overabundance of screen time as learning went online. Some kids as young as eight spoke of suicidal thoughts.
“They were struggling without outlets other than screen time,” Slykhuis said. “Not a lot of them have the coping skills.”
But it wasn’t until Slykhuis was walking down St. Johns Street in Port Moody last summer when she was serendipitously presented with a way to fuse her counselling experience with her decade-long passion for yoga.
That’s how a vacant storefront became RVN Wellness.
And while Slykhuis has adult clients, helping young people is her real her driving force.
On Nov. 12, British Columbia’s representative for children and youth, Jennifer Charlesworth, released a report by Simon Fraser University’s Children’s Health Policy Centre that found young people may be disproportionately affected by the public health crisis.
“The pandemic has the potential to amplify inequalities,” Charlesworth said in a press release, adding those can include pre-existing mental health conditions, youth in foster care, Indigenous people and those experiencing adversities like socioeconomic disadvantage and racism.
“Funding and implementing enhanced mental health supports as part of B.C.’s pandemic recovery plan will help ensure that children and youth receive the assistance they need both during and after the pandemic.”
Slykhuis said yoga can form part of that assistance. She said its measured movements and breathing help form an intimate connection between mind and body that can ease anxiety.
“It builds resilience,” she said. “It’s an individual practice, so you’re not worried about what others are doing.”
Slykhuis said one of the reasons young people may be wearing the stresses of the pandemic is their brains aren’t yet fully equipped to deal with the ‘big feelings” months of unrelenting upheaval can bring.
“They don’t know how to identify and manage them,” she said. “They’re struggling.”
But after navigating the uncertainties of creating a safe operating plan then having the requirements changed yet again, Slykhuis remains confident she’s on the right track, even if it means waiting a few more weeks before her young pupils can return.
“Some of the kids don’t want to leave,” she said.