Yoga Behind Bars (YBB)
In A Nutshell:
Organization in Seattle that brings yoga and meditation classes to incarcerated youth and adults in as well as those at risk of entering the criminal justice system.
Why They Rock:
- They (over 35 volunteers ) teach 11 classes a week at 7 different facilities (Juvenile Detention Centers, Low Income Units, Correctional Complexes, and Seattle Jails)
- Gratitude in Motion Thanksgiving Event: Local Seattle yoga studios over the Thanksgiving weekend donate their class fees to YBB (12 studios participated in 2010).
- In 2010, the volunteer teachers taught 3,900 hours of yoga and meditation which in monetary value equals almost $24,000.
A recent clinical study has shown that as little as 8% of inmates who take yoga/meditation classes while in prison are re-incarcerated, versus a national average closer to 60%. You might not be into numbers, so I will let prisoners tell their positive stories about Yoga Behind Bars…
My lively and spunky contact Natalie met me at Empire Espresso Bar (more to come on this coffee shop gem), and gave me a large stack of surveys and testimonials from incarcerated adults and youth…my mission was to upload the information in Excel and Word which will help with fundraising and matrix efforts.
I tried to get in a zone for entering the material quickly although many times I had to stop and re-read the inspiring and sincere prisoner comments in regards to the benefits of practicing yoga and meditation and for their appreciation of YBB…
“In prison we live in an environment full of distractions, struggles, and stresses. With yoga I have learned I can control how I react and how I am affected by those problems I face. During my practice I have found I can breathe in any of that negativity, embrace it, and then let it go with a deep exhalation of surrender and peace. This helps me to make it through those times in which I am overcome by negativity…I want to thank all of you for helping me to achieve this ability….Your contribution to those inside is beyond measure. We are all blessed to have opportunities you provide, and I thank you for everything that you do.”
“Yoga – a good way to free yourself and still be incarcerated…the YBB teachers are YOGA JEDI’S!
“Para mi el yoga es excelente a cualquier edad para mantener el cuerpo y la mente sanos. El cuerpo se mantiene elástico y flexible y se puede sentir una gran relajación interior.”
Translated: For me, yoga is excellent at any age to maintain a healthy body and mind. Yoga keeps your body resilient and flexible and you feel a great internal sense of relaxation.
“I feel that yoga could help me with my dancing. I have been doing ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop since I was young. My dream and goal in life is to dance professionally and use my talent and gift God gave me in life! Focusing, breathing, posture, balance and dedication all benefit from the art of yoga!”
“My goal in life is to achieve peace for myself and I would like to help others achieve peace as well (poem below).
Fortification of the will of the divine self,
Reconstructing my own aspects recognizing inner wealth.
Taking joy in all things, yet moved by none,
The day I was born my work here was done.
Alone as I wonder the earth reminding myself of its creation,
I touch myself as cymbals cognize around this peaceful elation.
The ascension back to my heavenly body each moment relived,
Remembering my selflessness in love which I give.
Moment unto moments I’m trapped and am free,
The light on my path keeps me blind and lets me see.”
After imputing all the yoga data, I met Natalie again in Capitol Hill (hipster part of Seattle) to drop of all her materials; and I was so inspired from the prisoner comments that I took a yoga class at Samadhi Yoga…I could live in savasana (ending yoga pose laying down – better than sleeping).
Seattle hospitality was total zen bliss…my very giving and positive friend Casey who was out of town lent me her house located in unique/cool/beautiful Columbia City which included all this awesomeness: Empire Espresso Bar (smooth coffee, waffles, and soccer…this is heaven), Both Ways Cafe (Denver breakfast scramble – l love you), and I was able to get picturesque runs through Seward Park on Lake Washington. Casey is my positive idol – her company called Positive Thought Brand promotes positive messages on apparel, and she is about to launch a mobile truck selling her line throughout Southern California! Also met inspirational Pete at Empire who is 50Give blood…started a non-profit for education called HOPE beats HATE (50Give honorable mention all-star) – enjoy their promotional powerful video (yes, I’m biased cause I LOVE club music). I capped off Seattle with a complimentary seafood lunch from my new down-to-earth friends Kelley and Katie at Etta’s, and they helped with fish tossing at Pike Place Fish Market…slippery suckas – check out ‘The Catch’ video (back off Niner Fans)!
I got hooked on yoga and meditation years ago and grateful is understatement of how I feel…I can’t imagine my life without either, especially in terms of the positive spiritual side – I finally realized I’m not my brain but a joyful soul. I can’t pretend to know what living in jail is like although I know from the testimonials that prisoners feel freedom with Yoga Behind Bars, they are leaving jail…if they can be peace behind bars, then there is hope for them in the real world.
The journal entry is dedicated to all yogis, especially the crew at Red Lotus Society.
HOPE beats HATE
How to Meditate
“Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice, we can free ourselves from fear, anguish and loneliness.” ~ Indra Devi