When I arrive at the prison on Sunday, I see a gate similar to this one although where I am has a brick guard-house immediately behind the gate and another gate about 25 feet further on. The razor wire is the same. The gates are numbered so I follow the protocol. I call out “On one” – no answer. I can see the window of the guard-house is open but I cannot see inside. Perhaps the guard has stepped away from the desk or can’t hear me or is on the phone or… I wait, centered, without any real thoughts other than, “was I heard?” Then I call out again “On one!” This time a jovial voice comes floating out “Yoga man!”, and the gate clicks open.
I roll my box of gear in, lugging my guitar in the other hand and set things down. I present my driver’s license and passes to the smiling face and say “Hi, I’m here to teach the one o’clock yoga class,” but this is just going through the motions. He knows me and what I am here for and says, “I don’t need those,” and marks up the book that tracks the comings and goings of prison volunteers. I inquire for the chaplain’s keys so that I can unlock our blankets and blocks for class. And with a few kind words and smiles, gate two clicks open and I am on my way.
My way takes me to the back door of the building where class will be and with my gear at the back door, I round the building to the front and see the yard, the main guard office and the men in line at the canteen waiting to buy their sodas and snacks. Lunch has just finished and I am on track to get my space set up and my people in before the yard is closed down for “the count.”
I actually rarely have to do much setup as the men move tables and chairs and the space is set up quickly for me as I set up our music – Bob Marley to start, and gather the blankets and blocks and get things out in accessible places. Then I am off to the main guard office in the yard in order to get my announcement made. The people there know me too and nod and within seconds the announcement is heard from one end of the camp to the other, “Yoga and meditation in the modular building,” and again, “Yoga and meditation in the modular building.”
Then I am back to our space. The men gather and we greet each other with “Namaskar” and “Hi, how are ya?” and talk about various subjects yoga related, prison related and family related. A member of the class has just “graduated” – been released. Another will in a week and a half. We wait until we have our group assembled and then proceed with warmups. Next some sun salutations. Then a variety of asanas. Then balance asanas. Then an inversion. Then self massage and relaxing in savasana (corpse pose). Bob Marley runs out before we get to the balance asanas and we switch to Deva Premal. For savasana I put on a cd of rain with some odd musical accompaniment that one of the guys says includes a didgeridoo.
After that things can vary but usually include some topic of yoga philosophy such as yama and niyama, chakras, diet, guided meditations. These topics form the base of much of what is in this blog. This group is often more talkative than I expect and has some very good insights. If there is time we will do some songs and kiirtan (chanting). Then a meditation. We end with “Namaskar” and then put the room back together. I head off to the office to copy my attendance list and turn in copies to the guards and the chaplain and then wait for the man I sponsor for yoga teacher training.
When he arrives, we head back to the guard building at the entrance and stand at the other gate and call out, “On two.” After paperwork here we are off to our evening schedule with a usual itinerary of the library, a quick meal and then a four-hour yoga teacher training class. A quick trip back and check back in at that guard office. A last look at the razor wire as I walk out in the dark to head home. I am outside. They are inside. Yoga Inside and Out.