When I’m teaching at jail I’m with lots of women who have varied sexual histories ranging from abuse, violence and miseducation. With all the joking that happens (because listen it’s jail and you have to laugh or you’ll cry) many students get into a playful mode when we practice asana (poses). And that’s fantastic because part of being able to let go happens when we are relaxed and laughter can assist in that process. I plan classes that focus on breathing and movement. Classes contain poses with lots of heart openers but I’m careful with how we move through the hips. More than once have we moved through a pose that has elicited a response like ‘This is something I need to try with ______’ or ‘I’ll be the hit at the club with this move.’
It’s all in good fun- but as I get to know these women and their stories I feel more comfortable being conversationally candid.
In a sexualized culture it’s easy to see how yoga poses can look like a good way to improve upon the ahem– beast with two backs. Even aspects of the yoga world have become sexualized far beyond the initial message of finding one’s center through the breath. So a few weeks ago in class I decided that I would do something different. I addressed the comment. I asked their permission to ‘be real’ for a second.
‘Yoga and this class isn’t about a better way to frak (except I didn’t say ‘frak’).’
Mouths dropped. Eyes widened. Smiles crept on faces. What was this crazy yoga teacher going to say next? ‘When you take a moment to close your eyes and breathe. It’s a chance for you to remember that you are sacred. When you do yoga you get to tap inside an essence that gets hidden because of all the stuff that happens to us. But yoga is a way for you to see how special and you are.’
I got a high-five and ‘See, this is why frak with and your class.’ (Except she didn’t say frak)
Sometimes yoga is gritty and dirty, but that doesn’t mean it’s not holy and full of grace.
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