Rikers Island Yoga

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“Thoughts are things, so make ‘em good ones.” -unknown

A lot of women I encounter in jail have endured a life of being told that they are less than. Being told that they don’t matter. Being told that they are nothing more than a body to be used, abused and thrown away.

In trauma sensitive yoga we find ways to take negative self-talk and replace it with positive language. Sometimes to quiet the loud external voice it requires a fake it until you feel it approach.

For instance, in a study by researchers at Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, people who used positive affirmations for two weeks experienced higher self esteem than at the beginning of the study. Also, in a study published in the Journal of American College Health, researchers found that women treated with cognitive behavioral techniques, which included use of positive affirmations, experienced a decrease in depressive symptoms and negative thinking. A study by researchers at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, had similar results, and came to a similar conclusion.
Yoga may assist in helping you feel. When you start breathing and moving there’s a chance to move up the emotional ladder from faking feeling good to actually feeling good. Affirmations and/or mantras partner well with yoga and the process of building self-esteem and mindfulness.

In the sentenced women’s dorm I used a silent affirmation meditation to open class. I had students pick one thing they loved about themselves that wasn’t physical and turn it into an ‘I am’ statement. I am brave. I am compassionate. I am smart. I am love.

If they wanted, they could come back to their phrase over and over. Every time we met in Mountain pose I invited them to silently repeat their I am statement with hands gently pressing their hearts. Before closing class an I offered the option one more time.

I heard a women whisper ‘ I am hopeful for a better life.’ It caught me off guard and I had to pause before saying ‘Namaste’ because of the huge lump in my throat. Her voice stayed with me all day, not just because it was moving but because it was honest and so very real.

I am hopeful for a better life.
I am hopeful for a better life,
I am hopeful for a better life-
I am hopeful for a better life.

Aren’t we all?

I am hopeful for a better life.
I am hopeful that one day all beings will be happy and free.
I am hopeful.
I am.

Namaste y’all.

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Meatless Monday – Confessions Dressed with a Lemon Caper Vinaigrette

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Meatless Monday was on hiatus primarily because I was over thinking it. Stymied and frustrated I wallowed in self-pity because I wasn’t creating recipes that I deemed ‘blog-worthy’. Then I called bullsh*t on myself.

The thing I loved about Meatless Monday was that it was supposed to be easy and fun, Part of living a mindful life in being in the moment and accepting what is. I stopped doing this when it came to posts. This week I decided throw myself into the fire and whip up whatever I had handy.

This was inspired by a book I love, Culinary Artistry its a cooking concept book that talks about flavors and the science behind what foods and spices marry well. I’m not a cook who loves to follow a recipe to the letter, so this appealed to me. The result is what is this week’s Meatless Monday recipe.

The farmers market had asparagus on the cheap. In my fridge I spied a head of cauliflower, capers, lemons and spring greens.

Warm Cauliflower and Asparagus Salad with a lemon caper vinaigrette

  • Cauliflower florets
  • Asparagus
  • Juice from one lemon
  • Capers (2 ounces with juice)
  • 1/4 cup light tasting olive oil
  • 1 TSP dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot minced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • handful parsley chopped
  • one small onion sliced

 

Directions

  1. Steam florets and asparagus for two minutes until just tender.
  2. Quickly sauté veggies with garlic and sliced onions for three minutes with one tablespoon olive oil.
  3. Plate veggies on spring mix and dress with vinaigrette.

For the Vinaigrette

  1. Whisk shallots, mustard, lemon juice, capers, remaining olive oil and parsley

 

 

 

It was easy and delish. Next time I might add quinoa or brown rice or mushrooms for some heft, but a really big serving of this left me very satisfied.

Sometimes you have to step away from something to know you really want it.

Happy Meatless Monday!!!

Namaste y’all.

 

 

Rikers Yoga

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At Rikers there are lots of ‘squeaky wheels’. It  gets the grease and whatnot. But lately, there’s one student who has really been getting into yoga. She’s been taking classes with me for almost three months. Mina (not her real name) is quiet and seems pensive. During the first class her eyes would widen as her body would open. But even as her friends went home, and class got smaller she kept showing up. With each passing week she’s become stronger and started asking questions. Last week, class was three deep, after sun salutations, the crew looked a little bored. I asked them what they wanted to do.

There’s always a pause when you ask a student in jail what they want. It’s so unusual. And then….
Something hard, one said. Something fun, another said. All three were fit and demonstrated core strength and coordination so we took it to the wall for L pose and handstand practice.
Word. Go time. 
Mina was kicking up before I cued it. On her hands against the wall she was asking, ‘Like this?’ without struggle in her voice. All three were amazing and radiant. There is joy in going upside down. The other women in the dorm were proud of all of them clapping and cheering them on.
This week she was the only one who showed up to class. The call for rec had come just before I got there. With the first whiff of warm weather, I’d probably choose to be outside as well. Mina asked if we would still have class since she was the only one. A huge smile graced my face because a student who can do handstands and no other people = F.U.N. There is something shy and powerful about Mina, she smiles but is hesitant to look at you straight on. After holding her handstand she smiles broadly but it disappears just as quickly. After class she let me know that she was going home in two weeks so I’d only see her for one more time. She put her blocks on the cart and looked me right in the eyes and said, “I’m never coming back.”
I believe her.
Shout out to all the Minas.
Namaste y’all.