Rikers Yoga

Photo NYT
Photo NYT
Today at Rikers:

Building 7 was still except for Marissa(not her name) having a debate with the officer on post. It was clear Marissa wasn’t happy with how the conversation was going. There was anger brewing. Upon seeing me the officer said, “Why don’t you do some yoga. It will help you.”

Initially, Marissa plunked herself down in a chair out of protest, but I could see her eyeing the bolsters.
I must digress, bolsters are my secret weapon. After sleeping on a cot with a 3 inch thick mattress one can’t help but sneak a peak at a juicy pillow. Back to the class… 
Raquel, my other regular from 7 was having a bad day and wasn’t interested in practicing. In this ‘house’ there are about 15 women, but the group that is there now is hard to motivate. This has not always been the case. It’s a challenge because these women are potentially a step away from solitary. They really need a chance to breathe. More and more I get stopped by women who want classes in their houses or dorms. It’s tough to rally a group when I know other students would be on their mats in a second. Rocks, hard place and all that jazz.
I gave another holler for yoga and decided to head back to teach another class on the fourth floor. Marissa looked at me and said, “If you want me to take the class I will. You don’t have to go.”
“It’s your choice. You don’t have to take this.”
I made this distinction on purpose. It wasn’t that I wanted Marissa to think she wasn’t doing me any favors. It’s important to give these women a chance to say yes of no to something. While I want to get every single body in Rikers to a class, I can’t mandate anything. (Well, I wouldn’t turn people away if it was required. Secretly, I may rejoice Officers and inmates taking classes together. One can dream).
Choice matters. Marissa made the decision to come to her mat. If she is bought in, she’s more likely to see benefits sooner rather than later.
She said, “I gotta get rid of some of this anger.”
We introduced ourselves and I asked her where in her body she felt the anger. It was in her head, neck and shoulders. I had her practice some gentle head and neck movements and then we did pranayama. As soon as we finished pranayama Marissa asked me about sit-ups. She’s been doing them but thought she was breathing wrong, ‘it’s like I’m fighting myself and now after doing this I think I’m breathing wrong or maybe not at all.’ It was a really astute observation. After we started moving Raquel came over smiling and grabbed a mat. Whatever she was going through wasn’t enough to keep her away from a chance to do yoga. We talked for awhile about weight gain- both had gained 40 pounds since arriving. With one knowing that her ‘journey’ (her words) will take her a prison that reportedly has a gym and lots of classes they excitedly talked about losing weight.
After class I asked Marissa how she was…”Better but I still need to settle this issue,” she said laughing.
As I headed out, Marissa came over and said, “What’s that thing with the hands and seeing the good in someone?”
“Namaste,” I replied. She looked over at the officer who she was now joking with and said Namaste to her.
She asked if I would be back next week, because she wanted to do more yoga.
It’s not even a question. Namaste y’all.
Liberation Prison Yoga is in the middle of an Indiegogo Campaign and we NEED your DONATIONS and SUPPORT. Click here to view the campaign and give. We will be able to expand our programs and train more teachers. We are getting flooded with requests to do programs but need money to grow.
Know yoga. Know peace.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/liberation-prison-yoga/embedded/9637391

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Spring Fever Yoga

spring-flowers-wallpapers-collection

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!

-Mark Twain

For real.

It’s going to be 60 today and I can’t tell you how much I want to do. I feel like a little kid. First I’ll take Dakota on a long walk. And then I’ll do a walking meditation after teaching. Then a wee bit of mania sets in.

And then I’ll take a class.AndthenI’lltakeabikerideandthenI’llstopatthefarmersmarketandthenandthenandthen…. 

I kid. Sort of. Every spring I do get a rush of energy to do, do, do. I wondered if Spring Fever is a ‘thing’. Turns out, there’s some science behind why we get so revved up when the weather warms.

In an article for the New York Times a doctor breaks things down.

”Spring fever is an ill-defined quantity,” said Dr. Michael Terman, the director of the Light Therapy Unit at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan. ”By some definitions it means lassitude, by others it means energy spurts and irresponsibility.”

When spring arrives, I do get this urge to play. This is something I normally feel. We’re not talking swinging from chandeliers but I feel a more compelled to participate, accept dates and even make plans which is not in my nature. Another doctor writes in the same article that it may not all be in someone’s head.

But while this reaction was once thought to be psychological, Dr. Rosenthal said there is increasing evidence that it is actually physiological; the change in seasons prompts a readjustment in the body’s internal chemistry. 

Exactly how the body is affected is still unclear, but one popular theory is that the increasing intensity and longevity of sunlight in spring is somehow measured by the brain, probably through the eyes. This information is then transmitted to the pineal gland in the base of the cerebrum, which responds by reducing its secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences mood and energy levels.

Wow!

I did a little more digging and found this great clip on Scientific American which backs up the notion that Spring fever isn’t just the stuff of poetry.

 

 

 

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1399191810

Do you ever feel feverish when the warm weather hits?

Namaste y’all. Happy Spring!!!