Prison Yoga

Prison Yoga

by Romayne Babcock | 31/01/2018

My YogaFit journey began about 10 years. I had worked in the fitness industry for 15 years and was constantly in and out of physical therapy. My doctor suggested I try to be more consistent with a yoga practice but it was just so slow and boring to me. After a back injury, I committed to practicing yoga once a week for six weeks. I was surprised at how much better my back felt in such a short time but also couldn’t believe how good my knees felt.


I continued to take more classes and little by little found myself no longer lifting weights or doing as many intense workouts. I decided to train with YogaFit because it felt like a good fit with my fitness background. I loved being able to go at my own pace and traveling to Mind Body FItness Conferences to immerse myself in teacher training without everyday distractions. I graduated from YogaFit's 200 hour program in April of 2012 and my 500 in January of 2017. The thing that surprised me the most was that I was finally able to slow down and enjoy it! The mindfulness that yoga brought to my everyday was so much more than even the physical benefits. I now teach yoga fulltime in my home studio, a local gym, ballet studios, and offer lunch time corporate classes as well as hosting weekend yoga retreats. I’m so grateful that I’m able to do what I do and share yoga with others.


Recently, my favorite work is teaching at the maximum-security prison for women in Raleigh, NC. Teaching at the prison was something I had wanted to do for some time. I honestly wasn’t even sure what exactly I wanted to do but had felt called to offer something in that setting. I had looked into other programs offered at the prison but never actually did anything about it. Early this year, I saw a random social media post from someone I had never met looking for yoga instructors to help teach some of the prison classes. I knew I had to give it a go. My initial orientation was the first time I had ever been to a prison. I was fearful and quite frankly, overwhelmed. I left there wondering if this is really something I could do. I decided to show up anyway. I showed up to teach the first class and quickly realized that everything there is unpredictable. It took much longer to get through the gatehouse then expected and so I was already late to start.


The same fear, lack of control and unpredictability that I was feeling is what the women there feel all the time. It is exactly why they need yoga!


I’ve learned by teaching there to roll with it. The women who show up all come for very different reasons. Some are required, some just want something to do, and some truly want to learn more about yoga. The practice there is to a very wide range of physical ability, so the YogaFit approach of yoga being for everyone and offering variations is key. Teaching at the prison is really the only time that I do not go in with a game plan. It is really so much less about the poses and so much more about just offering them space and time to just be. I find myself using much of what I learned in the Pranayama training, Restorative Training and Healthcare II. I look forward to adding some YogaFIt for Warriors training down the road as well. There are programs already ongoing in many prisons and instructors are needed to help them to continue. Giving these women a mindfulness tool both on and off the mat can be life changing, just as it is for all of us!


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