In one of my yoga classes where I am the student this week, one of the other students asked me if the kids in jail could do balance poses because their life is so out of balance. Great question, the answer surprised the person who asked the question and the entire class--my kids are better at balance poses because they are in jail than if they were on the outside and took a class. The explanation is simple and complicated and really quite a study in my opinion.
The kids in jail feel safe in jail, they have a sense of security that they do not know on the outside and in jail they find a truth in their heart that was masked by not feeling a sense of anything other than survival on the outside. These beautiful kids know what is expected of them in Juvie, and there is no question as to what the rules are or what their role is in the working community that they live in. Today, one of the guards asked over the loud speaker for a Level 3--housed the longest--to grab a mop and bucket ---you may think that it took some proding to get someone from that unit to get this job accomplished---surprisingly, many volunteers stepped up. Again I was shown that they feel safe and secure as well as respected enough to know what the boundaries are in jail. On the outside, many of these kids lived in the periphery of life, they reacted to whatever was coming at that minute, in jail they live from the heart and react with a big picture in mind. No they are not ok with being there, but at least they know that in jail they are protected and not tempted to react.
Everyone says that there is violence in the jail system, and I believe that, but I don't believe that violence comes because these kids don't know any better--I believe that violence comes from their transition from periphery to core--think of a pose, any pose and remember what it was like to be a beginning student not sure, scared, masking your heart--for me most of my poses were periphery based; I didn't even know what pull from the core meant in the beginning---but after a while the violence in my body stopped for that pose and I was able to consolodate to the midline and then shine out with joy in the poses. These kids are the same way--some of them have lives that were riddled with unsafe, insecure, masking of their hearts, it is not always easy to feel ok in your body.
The boys class has been working with meditation, they were ready and many of them asked about it so we began the study. I asked if anyone did meditation in their rooms or when I was not at the jail--of the 15 boys, 10 of them said they did meditation this past week and 4 of them said they did it more than 3 times. The boys asked if we would do a meditation practice every week. I find that these boys are hungry for solice--hungry for stopping the constant chatter---we did a breath practice again this week, and I am almost brought to tears by the beauty of their rythmic breathing and the way they sit still--5 minutes this week. One boy said he feels in meditation like he is a tall building and the night watchman is turning off the lights one floor at a time until he reaches the bottom floor and then he's calm. How could you not be moved by this?
Yoga is so amazing, 5000 years doesn't lie, and even today in the "yoga room" of JDC it's working like it should, slowly, methodically and truthfully.