Yoga Behind Bars

During my yoga teacher training at Yoga Tree last year, one of our teachers, Harvey Deutsch, told us: “Yoga is everything, and everything is yoga.” Although this could easily have come across as flippant and dismissive, a way of justifying laziness in the yoga studio, it was meant to open our minds to the enormous range of yoga styles and students. It was to reminded us that to some practitioners, yoga was about sweating away their water weight in a hot room; to others, it was a profoundly spiritual journey; for others still, it was a community of people, a peaceful and healthy way to spend one’s time. When I read the recent New York Times piece on yoga in prisons, A Series of Poses for Fitness, Inside and Out, I thought back to Harvey’s words, and reaffirmed my own belief that at the same time yoga draws people closer together, it is also incredibly personal. In many ways, it does not matter where the practice takes place, what poses or breathing exercises are taught, or who the teacher is; the student will make his practice whatever he needs it to be. In the preliminary studies on yoga programs in prisons, they have been found to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as recidivism–all at an impressively low cost. In response to a growing number of kids’ yoga programs, Fox News recently asked the question, “is yoga contributing to the wussification of America?” Perhaps, Fox News, you should ask your question to the “wussy” inmates at Richmond City Jail, then report back to us.

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