Spiritual Growth Experienced As Freedom in Prison
As a yoga practitioner and teacher for the last 20 years, I had a traumatic experience recently that I never expected to have to go through in my lifetime. As the result of a convoluted series of misunderstandings, I found myself spending a week in jail.
The challenges of being imprisoned are many and overwhelming. Without getting into too much detail about these challenges, my sanity depended on where my mind was at. Initial feelings of anger, helplessness and “why me” completely dragged me down in an emotional spiral. I felt weak from not eating which decreased my energy levels. I felt my imprisonment aged me and when I looked at my reflection in the scratched, dull mirror, I barely recognized myself. To continue with these feelings of absolute despair would have dragged me down into the depths of depression I had experienced as a child. However, I have acquired spiritual tools and armor throughout my years of yoga practice and have become a warrior refusing to allow myself to go to the dark side!
I had to create and be my own spiritual sanctuary of love and respect for myself and the other female inmates I was cohabiting with or else I would drown in the sorrow and harshness that was felt all around in jail. The other inmates were suffering their own trauma and the correctional officers are basically imprisoned themselves. There was anger and fear surrounding me on all sides. I had to strengthen my relationship with myself, my mind and with God through my practice. Because that is all I had to rely on. When I strengthened these relationships, the shift in energy is profound. Its truly shocking how immediately we can change our reality by re-wiring our brain. In a place of constant noise, cussing, anger, stress, fear, shame and aggressiveness, I created a place of beauty, respect and integrity through my yoga practice.
When we were allowed to go outside to the “yard” for a half hour to one hour a day (and not every day!) I went to a corner to practice yogasana. It didn’t take long for the some of the other women to come over and ask me what I was doing. They said they had heard of yoga before but have never seen it or try it. Could they, they asked me. I was beyond joy when they asked me because my passion is teaching yoga! Its what I have been doing for the last 13 years! Soon I was teaching yoga again! Simple postures with extraordinary results. For me, I felt alive again, exhilarated and impassioned, sharing the gift of yoga with other women who felt as desperate as I had been feeling. It only took a few movements and controlled breathing for these women to feel the effects and benefits of the practice.
The next day they told me how good they felt and where they were feeling sore. There was more gentle communication among us, more smiles and laughter. I had made some friends and gained some respect in prison. I no longer felt as threatened as I had before. I felt joyful to be able to share this beautiful transformative practice in such a boring and harsh environment. The seeds of a spiritual practice had been planted and the goodness continued to grow. The macrocosm within the microcosm expands and the sun shone from within us. Like a smile, the contagion of spirituality results in utter freedom from a contracted mind and heart. We were creating our own freedom and our own light!