Prison Yoga Project
Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the Prison Yoga Project at the Carswell women’s prison (otherwise known as the Federal Medical Center Carswell). When project organizer Janie Portele first approached me about the project, I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive. I had no idea what to expect, but as I thought about it I realized I couldn’t think of a place more in need of yoga. We had to do a four-hour volunteer orientation weeks before actually doing any teaching, which was really interesting. Once we got to the prison, we were separated into groups. Two instructors went to the camp area (which I believe is a lower-security portion of the prison), two went to the hospital area and I went to the admin area, which is the high-security portion. After signing a form, going through a metal detector, getting a visitors badge, and making my way through five or six heavily locked doors with an armed guard (who was present during the full hour), I was finally with my class. Three women attended. After an hour of slow flow and a long savasana, they thanked me profusely. I felt a little sad as I left… I didn’t know what was in store for the rest of their evening, but I was glad that I was able to help them get their minds off of their situations, even if for just an hour. When I teach my regular classes I part ways with my students as they go home to families and nice dinners, so leaving students to an evening in a cell felt different. As I drove home that night, their extreme gratefulness for one hour of yoga really stuck with me…and made me realize that I take my studio classes, fun events like Wanderlust and at-home DVDs and online yoga sessions a little bit for granted. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have access to any sort of yoga instruction at my disposal.
I’m only scheduled for one more month this year, but hope that the project keeps going and we can get more instructors interested. We are only allowed to go in one Thursday of each month, but hopefully someday that can be expanded. If you are a yoga instructor and are interested in participating, please contact Janie at firstname.lastname@example.org.