By guest author Adhyatama of Kalpa Taru, Wellington
Some of you may know I have been teaching Yoga up at Rimutaka prison for the last year and Waikeria and Springhill for the four years before that.
I drive up to Rimutaka every Tuesday and spend a couple of hours in a Unit with serious violent offenders teaching asana (postures), breathing techniques to calm and relax them and Yoga Nidra. All I can say is that I just love it, and I love them! That may sound weird but honestly what magic happens!
When these guys drop their macho facade, their pain, their grief and their shame… they are just like you and me. Like anyone who has had a rough start to life. Such has been the range of negative experiences in their lives that it would be understandable if they were to choose to lie down and never get up again.
But through yoga these men start to thaw, and emerge from behind their shields.
I believe that if we are serious in our quest to successfully re-integrate offenders back into the community and reduce the current high rate of re-offending and make our communities safer, it isn’t about making prisons more barbaric and treating those in prison worse than they are treated now.
What purpose would this serve?
How can you make the life of someone who has lived this sort of life that has been filled with abuse and trauma worse?
Why as a society do we abandon them and let them live as forgotten children?
What I’ve seen in the last few years in my teaching yoga in prisons has been remarkable transformations.
From darkness to light.
From apathy to hope.
From depression to balance.
Men who couldn’t get out of bed now make the huge effort of self discipline to get up a little bit early and then in their tiny cells -where you can’t swing a cat and have no yoga mats, no fancy yoga clothes, no incense, no flowers, no sunshine – they do their morning practice of Salute to The Sun, Full Yogic breath and Meditation.
The guards have told me they notice a difference. For the better. In their attitudes and in their interactions with others.
The prisoners tell me they feel more positive and that they’re able to control their anger better, now pausing and breathing before reacting, and that they feel more relaxed, focused, calm and sleep better. Some of them discover yoga as way to deepen their spirituality.
And now for some news…
We are in the final stages of editing a simple manual called ‘Freedom from Within‘ (the name was a suggestion from one of my most dedicated students in prison).
We are printing 300 copies to be distributed FREE to any prisoner who requests one as a support for them while they are doing their time. Over the last 2 years, alongside Swami Vimalratna and his wife Nadaroopa, we have compiled this and it has been a wonderful (but long!) collaboration.
We need your help to raise the $1200 needed to print the manuals.
We have just launched a PLEDGE ME crowd-funding campaign, so in the next two weeks you have the opportunity to make a contribution and help spread the word so we can meet our goal!
On behalf of Yoga Education in Prisons Trust (YEPT) I would like to say a big thanks to my Mum Linda Spicer, Premratna and Swami Atmamuktananda for their editing assistance.
Huge appreciation to Premdhara who designed the cover and for being so patient with us on deciding on it. And also thanks to Leighton for contributing his design for the YEPT logo.
Heart felt gratitude to all the wonderful teachers who have donated Pledge Me rewards in the form of yoga classes and retreats! Lynda Miers, Kelly Fisher, Jo Vernon, Yogamani and the Anahata Yoga Retreat crew.
I also must thank the founders of YEPT~ Parvitrananda, Heather and Carole for their unwavering support and dedication over the last 3 years.
But honestly, the biggest thanks has to go to the incarcerated men who have inspired me to continue this work with their honesty, truthfulness, love, receptivity, and respect.
Blessings and auspiciousness for peaceful community.
Adhyatma teaches Satyananda Yoga in Wellington and Lower Hutt and is available in your area for private or workplace classes. Find out more at her website, Kalpa Taru
SATYANANDA YOGA® is a classical, integral style of yoga that provides a coherent philosophy of life without postulating any religious or political beliefs and provides everyone, regardless of their social background, with tools for health, peace of mind and an inspired vision for life.
She also volunteers with the Yoga Education in Prisons Trust (YEPT), supporting New Zealand prisoners to practice yoga.