These letters are reprinted in the exact wording as written, with no corrections in grammar or spelling.
“When I first got into yoga, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was really looking for something just to buy some of my time especially considering my circumstances. Yoga is something that I think (my opinion) everybody should do, it help a person spiritually, mentally, and especially physically. Why I say spiritually because it helps your meditation skills, in helps you to focus better especially if you like to pray a lot. Mentally it brings peace to your mind as you perform the yoga, and physically it really helps your body, it brings strenght to your bones even the parts of your body that could not function the same. It will strengthen those parts. Since I have been in yoga, it really has helped me grow in those 3 area’s of my life, and I look forward to yoga now, in I like doing it. When I get done it’s like a new feeling that comes to me, because every time that you come back you can do more than what you did before, it also helps your breathing. I encourage people to take yoga classes, it can help you in so many areas of your life. I enjoy doing yoga, and I hope you consider joining a class in watch the impact it will do to your life. Join now – it’s fun!
Thank you Katie for directing me in the yoga way of life.
P.S. ‘The light inside of me, recognizes the light inside of you.'” ~D.W.
“Yoga is more than I ever imagined it to be. Before I was introduced to yoga by Katy, I had a complete misconception of what it really was. I had no idea of all the benefits involved with practicing yoga. I have learned that yoga is more than physical balance, flexibility and patience, it instructs the mind in these same disciplines. I have started practicing yoga every day for about an hour beginning with meditation, and then I go through a series of yoga postures called asanas.
Yoga is something I can do alone no matter where I am even in a jail cell. In a short amount of time the positive impact yoga has had on my life is nothing short of extraordinary. Yoga helps me slow down, take my time, self-reflect, relax, focus and look at the world in a whole new light. Yoga has helped teach me patience in regards to my physical flexibility, mental balance and spiritual development. I have had lower back pain for years and just after a couple weeks of daily practice it has lessened significantly. Yoga has also helped minimize my nervous energy which is something I have contended with for years.
I am extremely grateful I found yoga and I believe it will remain a consistent part of my life well beyond incarceration. The yoga instructor is imperative in the introduction process; the overall experience is a direct reflection of the instructors’ dedication to their cause. Yoga can add to the greater good of humanity, but first the word has to spread of its benefits and proper introductions have to be made. Thank you, Katy for introducing yoga to me and setting me on the path towards personal transcendence.” ~GKB
“Dear Root to Rise,
I LOVE YOGA! Thank you for bringing it here, of all places. I look forward to the classes instructed here at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, a highlight of the each week you come I can actually forget for a time that I am here in prison. My mind and body are free. There are still sounds that remind me where I am (as we cannot help but overhear…’you f***ing bitch!’ in the middle of a savasana), but the outside noises are diminished as I get further into my practice.
I have been at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center since 2009. Before I caused a double fatality car accident because I was driving drunk and received a 20 year sentence for 1st degree manslaughter, I was a productive member of the community, but I could not admit that I had a problem with alcohol. I am now considered a ‘violent offender’ because of my charge even though I have never been in a fist fight. I will have to serve 85% of my sentence before I can even be considered for parole. I do not receive any time off my sentence for good behavior. The day to day gets pretty tough. It is sometimes a struggle just to get up and face another day here, another day knowing what I did to get here.
The one thing that most stands out to me is that when you come out heroes that I feel like we matter, we are worth your time and talent. Your actions show that we are not just refuse thrown out and left to decay, but that our lives are significant. You seem to realize that today’s inmates are tomorrow’s neighbors. Programs like the one you bring to us can help elevate the entire population, even if only a small number participate. Like a pebble dropped into a still pond, the ripples of good feeling, peace and serenity are carried out to positively affect others here in this awful place.
Thank you for your investment.” ~N
“When I was first asked to go to yoga honestley I was thinking a girl my size can’t do that and I’m not that flexable. Because honestley when I used to imagine women the size of sticks putting their legs behind their heads or doing positions I knew I could never do. I always thought they do crazy things like pretzels and stuff. But now that I have actually tried it and I truley enjoyed it. It not only relaxes me & helps me control my breathing. I always feel like a natural high. Its a incredible feeling – I have never felt better in my whole entire 26 years.
I’m thankful that Katie [sic] takes time out of her schedule and actually comes to the center and shows us a way to control our stress levels & gives us motivation to keep going. I am an inmate at Kate Barnard Community Corrections Center. I have so much stress throughout the week as you can imagine & yoga helps me just relax & let go of all that stress. I actually look forward to Mondays now. My weeks not the same without my yoga sessions. It’s a privalge to have someone to come and just spend an hour with us. I greatly appreciate it all. Yoga has been a life changing experience. I am motivated to do more with my life. Now I can’t wait to do yoga & move on with my experience and further my education on yoga more. I’ve enjoyed all my education and hope to learn more about yoga.” ~S.J.
“On top of all the physical benefits of my yoga practice, tone, balance, strength, I am impressed more with the mental and emotional balance I get every Monday night. The change in me is profound.
As I go through my poses, Katie [sic] guides my body, thoughts, and breath to a place of calm. When I finish up in corpse pose, I feel vaguely euphoric, somewhat as though I’ve taken a valium.
Any anger I feel has become a distant irritation, like static on my favorite radio station, instead of an overpowering urge to let loose and rage. To me, this is HUGE. I am incarcerated for having lost my temper, and for that have nearly ruined my life. Convicted of four violent crimes, I am ten months from home.
I feel I am more than in control of my anger. Even the condescending and hate-filled behavior I’m subject to seems completely irrelevant.
I am high above it, and wish the guards would attend class. It is hard to dislike someone that you see wag their tail in Downward Dog.
I love my yoga, and I love Katie for self-lessly bringing us peace each week.” ~B.W.
**An update from B.W.:
“Yes – a free letter! I am living in Tulsa with my fiance. Gawd, thank you for helping me survive prison! I own a little pink mat, but never make the time…except once I bragged on my pigeon pose, had to back my mouth up…got my bluff called LOL.
I breathed myself into a place I want to go back to.
How spoiled am I that I reach out for MOTIVATION? Lazy lazy lazy girl. Anyway, I miss your guidance and open-minded acceptance. I hope you cross paths with me again – you’re the only good influence I’ve ever had.
Namaste all day.” ~Bee
“I was given an opportunity to attend yoga classes while at Hillside Comm. Correctional Center with Katy as my instructor. Several of those in attendance thanked her for her contribution of her time and energy, all present said how much they wish the same opportunity to attend yoga would have been available at other facilities. It is my understanding that Katy is trying to gain permission to enable this action. I write now to lend my voice and to share a little of how I feel yoga helps me.
I am only just learning of all the benefits, of course there is the obvious physical exercise but yoga also has a spiritual calming effect. I personally have suffered from high anxiety and mental health disorders. I truly believe that at the heart of many addictions lies trauma, and the effects it has. Yoga has a very calming effect thru learned breathing techniques, and provides a lot of stress reduction. Once learned at no cost, anywhere at anytime these benefits can be accessed.
The range of benefits is extensive and I’m sure vary from each individual but please hear me when I say, it is a guarantee benefit on some level to everyone who has an opportunity to learn yoga.
I feel very strongly about personal development. I also feel yoga has helped me greatly in my personal endeavors. I wish the same opportunity for everyone.” ~J.B.
“My first yoga session on Jan. 6, 2013, was not what could be defined as successful, nor was it without discomfort. I am 70 years old, and have not had a regular exercise schedule in several years; therefore, I was extremely stiff and without much flexibility. Even the most basic positions were difficult for me to attain, let alone sustain. Two days after this first yoga session, I experienced muscle soreness in places that I didn’t realize I had muscles! The deep breathing exercises were a new routine I had to adjust to as well.
Several months prior to this first yoga session, I had been suffering from mid-back pain that would come and go. This pain made sitting or standing for a period of time uncomfortable. Also at times this back pain would interfere with my sleep.
As the yoga sessions progressed each week, I began to notice that the various positions were becoming easier to accomplish. The deep breathing became routine not only in class but also whenever I became stressed. My posture was improving, and this probably resulted in the back pain subsiding.
After 5 yoga sessions, my flexibility has improved greatly. My entire body has benefitted from the stretching, deep breathing and the meditation.
Yoga should be a “must do” in everyone’s daily routine to get all the body’s parts and functions in harmony with each other. Yoga is also a great stress reducer.
If yoga can bring so many benefits into the life of this 70-year-old, think of the benefits it can provide for you.” ~A.D.
“Yoga was never something I was interested in until I got incarcerated. Just kinda laughed about it, but then I finally went and I absolutely love it! It’s something I look forward to! I’ve never really been confident about doing things but with yoga it’s a totally different story. I love the way I feel like I’m doing something for myself not to mention it makes me push myself to do more.
Being incarcerated can get to you and really bring you down, so when yoga was introduced to me it is amazing. Our teacher is awesome! She makes sure everyone understands things and is very patient.
I’m so glad I was introduced to yoga. I will most definitely continue to do yoga in here and out.” ~A.P.
“I can’t even begin to express how yoga has changed and improved my life. While incarcerated, I had begun to feel a lack of self-worth and motivation. These walls can really bring you down if you let them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been a pillar of self-confidence by any means, but somehow I’d allowed prison to further reduce my self-opinion. Then, miraculously, yoga was introduced to my institution and myself. What a blessing! Our teacher is so patient, kind and understanding, which helps a lot. Since I’ve been practicing yoga, my confidence level has increased dramatically. I feel great and, believe me, that’s a lot better than I was feeling! I plan to continue yoga upon my release to assist in sobriety and self-confidence. Thank God for yoga!” ~M.S.