Adventures in Teaching Yoga – Rikers Island

Discipline Working with the Inner Chaos

Today was my last class with the women on the fifth floor of Rosie (RSMC).

Our last class began with a dharma talk about mindfulness. What did everyone think the word meant?

‘Respect’ said someone from the back of the room. ‘Paying attention.’ said another student. ‘Being open to change.’

I asked them to add the word breathing to their definition of mindful. As we practiced I invited them to pay attention to their breathing, using their own definitions of what it meant to be mindful. We started class with meditation and a body scan. This theme of staying in touch with the body and breathing was with us every movement. I noticed today that every seemed focused inward, which was really lovely. While it’s great to see that people are engaged when I’m teaching, the real transformation is for these women to be able to give themselves a chance to breathe and get in touch with their own feelings off the yoga mat. I’m hopeful that this may have been a way to do that.

We practiced a therapeutic class with gentle yoga in between the postures. I have one student who practices sitting at the table. With her feedback we we able to put together table therapeutic practice (bolster and blocks included). It was fantastic because I’ve watched her grow from watching the class, to moving her arms and eventually sitting at a table right next to us. For the past three weeks I’ve incorporated table poses (I’ve been careful not to call them modifications-empowerment v. limitations). The best part is that she was able to use the bolster. The students at Riker’s don’t have opportunities to truly be comfortable. Getting a chance to rest on a bolster or hug something soft is a great release.

We spent almost two hours together and though I was sad, I’m confident that a few women feel empowered to breathe a little better.

In the end that’s really what it’s all about.

Next Tuesday begins a new adventure in building 16.

I am grateful.

Namaste y’all.

If you are interested in learning more about Liberation Prison Yoga click here

 

 

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One thought on “Adventures in Teaching Yoga – Rikers Island

  1. This is beautiful, Oneika. You did a wonderful job of meeting your students where they were. And you know it’s good when you get as much from your students as they get from you. This is good yoga.

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