Seva in Segregation - Part One

For the past two-and-a-half years yoga has become part of my sacred body and has changed my life for the better. Yoga has brought so much happiness to my life and inspired me to take a journey studying yoga and its philosophy; which led me to become a certified yoga instructor. I hope to share this blissful state yoga has created in my life. Because of yoga, I experienced true peace for the first time in my life. Yoga guided me back to my faith. I rediscovered my true self; I got to know who I am. In the past, my heart was held hostage, by the negative forces that emerged from the cracks of the prison concrete; but now instead my heart is bathing in the antidote to hatred, anger, and disparaging thoughts. Yoga has become the microscope to see the tiniest details of my life. It has given me the strength to not let waves of anger and regret swallow my purpose in life. That is the main reason I am pushing a cart on this lonely but lively watched footpath.

Any given Sunday or Friday I take 448 steps (counting the hallways) and go through 16 sets of doors with my yoga cart to arrive at my destination, the segregation unit, to offer Vinyasa/Yin yoga classes to men held in segregation. Upon my arrival to this area of the prison I am overtaken by sadness and negativity. Some days these forces are so strong that they give me goose-bumps and kick up my heartbeat. This only adds value to my journey and reminds me of the real reason I come down here. I am subjected to a dehumanizing strip search before I can enter the unit and another when I leave. In addition to the unwelcoming stares the guards are covered in S.W.A.T gear and armed with big cans of mace. I am escorted into the concrete prison yard inside the segregation unit. There are small cages built into the yard. Some cages have single basketball hoops, where others have a pull-up bar that is nailed to the wall. Other cages have nothing but a blue racked ball that is converted to a handball by my peers. Because of their classification status there can be no physical contact between us, even during our yoga practice.

Before the prison guards bring up the guys out of their cells they unlock the cages and let me put a yoga mat, yoga block, blanket and bolster inside of each cage. As the guard jingles his keys to find the right key to unlock the cages - I meditate on the power of the keys that unlock your heart and mind - keys that are not made of metal or have a specific shape but those that live inside of all of us.

LI Graduate

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