I just finished teaching my first yoga class to the inmates at the women’s jail in SLO county. Are they really called inmates, I wonder? I feel so humbled and blessed! How did I even find this life changing practice called yoga? I don’t know what they did to bring them to the jail, but I do feel that yoga can help everyone in some way, shape, or form. I’m thankful they were willing to practice with me. I asked, what are you hoping to get out of this class, and their answers were simple, mostly to de-stress and stretch. I wondered if they were only attending because it’s something different in their days, they shrugged and it didn’t seem like it. This photo isn’t from me today, but pretty inspiring!
I thought we should start class seated and connecting to the breath, but hell, I needed to move a little to get my teaching grove on. Sitting cross-legged on the floor was pretty uncomfortable for most of them. One women showed me her knee and I can’t say I’ve seen a knee scar with bones sticking out like that before. I noticed another crying a little after Let it Be played by the Beatles. I wondered if they’d be resistant to me assisting or touching them, and they weren’t. As I touched them it was pretty amazing to notice the deepening of breath and of the stretches themselves. I noticed another with her face crinkled throughout the entire class. It seemed like she was having some intense feelings and it showed on her face. I think she was crying a bit too at the end. I was surprised by the young, intelligent faces, and the older, painful ones as well. I ended up teaching a lot less poses than I thought I would, and holding them a bit longer. I walked around and barely held any poses myself. I had to remind them to close their eyes and breathe constantly, but it definitely seemed to help shift their energy. Their was a big difference before and after class. Before class I couldn’t hear their breath, they kept looking around at each other. After class, they were breathing deeply on their own and savasana seemed extra sweet.
Their was a sense of lightness in the class. They cracked jokes and laughed when they couldn’t do something which was fine by me. I had to physically help them get into postures quite a bit. They asked if I was a flexible pretzel and I said not really, but I am much more flexible than I once was. I pointed out that there is always someone more flexible, strong, prettier,…than all of us, that we have to be ok with ourselves where we are today, and try to not take that personally. They were so grateful afterwards. I am going to print what I taught and bring it to the next class in hopes that they’ll be able to do a little on their own.
What an experience. It left me feeling so blessed, honored, and respectful of these women. I’m so blessed that life dealt me the hand it’s dealt me, and that when it has been challenging, I’ve found a way to turn those lemons into lemonade. Much of life is our choices, but much of it seems to be luck of the draw. And what about that secret beast, Karma? It seems to me the only way to create change is to become aware of karma, and try to put the positive energy out there, somehow, even when life seems to be feeding us the negative.
I’ll probably write this up more formally, but the following is what we did today. Next time I might teach the “max” ladies. That means maximum security. We agreed they would like to move more, and I’m ready to bring some sweaty vinyasa next time!
A Simple Class for the Ladies
Cross-legged forward fold, forward, and to the side
Standing forward fold
Hands & knees to Cobra
Seated single legged forward fold
Both legs forward
PS. Image is from http://www.amanuddinfoundation.org/yoga-jail-bamyan.html.