Barbed wire. Iron metal gates. Rock hard floors. Bright fluorescent lights – it’s the last place on earth someone would think yoga takes place. But for the female inmates at CoreCivic in Nashville, TN it’s their reality.
I know what you’re probably thinking – teaching yoga in a prison?!? … girl are you crazy?!? Well… to be honest … maybe a little ☺
The questions that follow after telling someone I teach yoga at a prison normally go something like this:
“Are you ever scared?” – My answer – No.
“Have you ever gotten stuck inside the prison?” – Nope.
“Are the inmates nice to you?” – 100% Yes!
“Do you love it?” – Absolutely!!!!
Every week I teach dozens of women at CoreCivic asana – or the physical practice of yoga.
More times than I can count I’ve seen the women walk into class in their bright red jumpsuits apprehensive, sometimes angry or sad, and definitely nervous; but let me tell you, once our 60 minutes on the mat is up, something incredible happens.
I can’t explain it really, it’s almost like magic. These women leave walking lighter on their feet, more confident in their bodies, smiling and more than anything – grateful they came to class. The icing on the cake – almost all of them come back the next week looking for and seeking their little piece of peace while serving their time behind bars.
This class and so many others just like it are made possible through Small World Yoga, which is a non-profit yoga studio in Nashville. Each day of the week Small World Yoga makes yoga accessible to people and communities that normally wouldn’t have access to yoga by offering free and donation-based classes throughout the greater Nashville-area.
Honestly, teaching yoga at CoreCivic is probably my most rewarding class of the week. There was a time when I thought yoga required having the perfect mat, amazing clothes, and a membership at the best studio in town. While a sturdy mat, supportive clothes and a solid studio/teacher do matter – through teaching this class I am reminded yoga has little to nothing to do about any of those things. It all boils down to breath, movement and intention. I am forever grateful that I can be a vehicle to pass these tools onto the women at CoreCivic.