I didn’t ask any questions about why Mabel Bassett Correctional Center began housing a few juvenile inmates, I just responded to the email sent out asking if any program administrators would be interested in providing classes for them with an immediate “YES.” Well, that’s not completely accurate…the email asked which church groups would be interested in giving them classes, and I replied, “Yoga would be.” The juveniles – only 3 at this time – have to be housed in a completely different building and don’t interact with the general prison population. They stay in that building 24/7.
Chelsea was immediately all about helping out with the youngsters when I asked her to take on another class. She did the hard work with this group. The young ladies were a bit defiant in her first class. She had planned a short physical practice followed by guided meditation, and their insecurities showed up in the form of acting out. The class didn’t turn out like she wanted, so she smartly changed it to a meditation-based class, as the ladies were most uncomfortable connecting to their bodies. The next time she was there, class slowly got easier, and the 2 she had in class began to respond, saying they were able to relax and sleep easier.
I had the opportunity to teach the young ladies yesterday, and it was such an interesting change from my regular classes at the facility. The grown women who come to yoga classes at MBCC have usually been incarcerated for awhile. They are interested in making their time in prison more worthwhile, and they don’t mind working for that. Incarcerated teenagers, naturally, are a different story. When I first entered the youth offender building, they hollered at their guard, “Our meditation teacherrrr is herrrreeeee!”
“Hi ladies,” I said. “I’m Katy, and I’m filling in for Chelsea.”
“Yep, yep, we know,” they sounded off, trotting off to grab mats and pillows and get situated.
“I don’t have to do yoga, right?” said another unhappy young lady.
“No,” said the guard. “But you do have to be quiet while they do.”
“Can I watch TV?” she groaned.
“No,” I smiled sweetly. “Absolutely not.”
She plopped on her bunk, disgusted, and proceeded to slowly unwrap plastic candy wrappers during the majority of our practice. I giggled every time. Ah, teens. One of the 2 juveniles participating in the guided meditation practice was very pregnant; she is actually due next week. She talked about how much yoga and breath work has helped when she’s uncomfortable and feeling sick. Pretty cool for someone so young to apply what she’s learned in a harsh environment.
The youth responded well to the practice and thanked me as I was leaving. I thought about myself at 16-years-old, and how I might have been in that facility. I suspect I would have been more like my resistant candy wrapper friend. I know the whole experience would’ve been scary as hell.
I hope and work towards continuing to expand the reach of RtR to as many groups as possible.
Because it’s working.