Last week the young woman said good-bye, sure she'd be released from Rikers by today. She was there for a misdemeanor, and her third court date was yesterday. The first two times, her court-appointed lawyer had not shown up. She had spoken to the lawyer and was confident she'd get lucky on the third try, after more than three months of incarceration. I had not been able to fully share her excitement; I've been going in for too long, seen too many people's hopes crushed. But when we started class today, she wasn't there, and I hoped she was gone. In the middle of the opening meditation, she quietly joined us by just lying down on the mat. None of the women were eager to move today, so we did some restorative supine stretches and twists. Throughout class, the young woman was in savasana. When I put the mats away afterwards she came up. She didn't use any more energy than absolutely necessary to convey that her lawyer had not shown up again, that she needed a private lawyer, and that she didn't have the money to pay for one. Her brow was just slightly furrowed, but she looked infinitely sad. She put her hands in mine to say goodbye, and I just stood there, and felt her pain with her. I felt compelled to say something a few times, but then it seemed more important to just acknowledge and embrace that sadness, and just be present for her. Then, her hands still in mine, she said: "You're helping me. God bless you." I am always grateful when someone says 'God bless you' to me, and no less so today, but I never say it back. I don't feel it's my place to say it, even if I have no problem with anyone saying it to me. Today, I overcame that shyness, because it seemed right in the moment. "God bless you too!" I stressed. And her beautiful smile lit up her face. She said she wished she could hug me, but with C.O.'s looking on, that was not a risk she could take. I crossed my arms touching my shoulders and said we could hug this way. "I'm giving you a tight hug." Today I went in light and came out heavy. I consider it a privilege to be placed together with suffering souls, and be allowed to help carry their burden for a moment. Image: KTCS9 Yoga Behind Bars
#Repost from @brescullark an LPY teacher on the moments of struggle and questioning. On the strength and resolve it takes to keep turning up.
Sometimes I run into students I taught in jail.
Sometimes they are well.
Most times, they are still suffering.
I struggle with the idea of teaching a one hour yoga class/self healing and then leaving them to their own personal hell.
I feel powerless and useless.
I feel like I am selling empty dreams on Peace.
My boss/mentor reminded me today that powerlessness is an old familiar wound I have from my own trauma.
I heal my past each time I support others in doing the same.
Maybe yoga is or isn't enough to spark change but it is definitely the beginning for something positive.
I don't have the answers to all the injustices, shortcomings and suffering that many experience in underserved communities but I am really trying to offer something different than what was provided to me in my time of need.
May we all receive love and continuous support on our journeys.
Even the smallest act of love is better than none given at all.
Pedro Hernandez has maintained his innocence from day one. Rather than taking a plea deal Pedro is choosing to fight charges related to a shooting in 2015. He was recently released on bail after a non profit agreed to post on his behalf. But his fight is far from over, because he refuses to compromise his principles. Plea bargains ruin young men's lives, because they then have a record, which turns them into third class citizens. They have difficulty finding work, are barred from living in public housing, receiving public assistance, and much more. This young man stands by his innocence, not because of the fallout from a plea bargain, but because he wants truth to prevail. He graduated at Rikers Island High School with honors, and is a leader. Sometimes, standing up for truth makes you a target. "Incarceration at Rikers has been incredibly difficult for me, but it was my family who truly suffered,” Hernandez said in a statement. “Being back with them is the greatest gift.
"Fear puts me in a dark room - with no one to turn to. Being all alone. It drives me to another world. I'm a little girl again, not knowing how to handle painful situations. Then I come to my senses and put myself in my grown world. I talk myself out of it." Carla C. (reprinted with inmate's permission)
From Liberation Prison Yoga Empowerment Group at Rikers island.
Photo: EPA. Women incarcerated at Arizona's Estrella Jail.
"Walls turned sideways are bridges" - Angela Davis
On the first Friday of every month I spend an hour with Liberation Prison Yoga teachers. Though our 'gathering' takes place via video, it's nice to see teachers' faces. Talking about this work with friends and family is helpful but it's important to get together with people who do this service. Yesterday, our topic was compassionate acceptance of our students. One teacher took it a step further and said that he affirms students' existence by honoring the light in them. What always strikes me during the calls is the loving way the community listens to each other. The group holds space to hear stories, questions, great ideas and struggles. Sometimes, it's important to hear that the challenges are the same everywhere. Always, it's powerful to know I'm a part of a collective vision. This morning I woke up grateful for the volunteers who serve with their time, love, vulnerability and hope. Mindfulness is my movement. Love is my message. #LiberationPrisonYoga#meditation#endmassincarceration#yoga#service#iseeyou#yogaover40#service#traumainformedyoga#mayallbeingsbefreefromsuffering
Heart and strength.
Last weekend we marked the summer solstice with 108 sun salutations. Together we raised money for Liberation Prison Yoga because we believe in healing for all.
Thank you @lululemon @yogateachersassociation @clubfitny and all the generous people who gave and shared their practice. #healingforall#prisonyoga#liberationprisonyoga
Our founder Anneke Lucas has given a truly inspirational @tedx_official talk. Speaking from her devastating experiences as the victim of child sex trafficing and her illuminating journey of healing.
She offers hope discussing Liberation Prison Yoga's mission of healing for all.
We have a chance to create a healthier society and we hope you'll join us. Link in bio.