Yoga Behind Bars was born by Seattle/Portland yoga teacher, Shaina Traisman. In 2003, she began teaching yoga classes to men and women in Seattle’s downtown jail. It was a life-changing, heart-opening experience. Though solitary yoga teachers had come and gone before her, Traisman was haunted by the enormous need, the growing interest of students and the effectiveness of the classes. In 2005, after conceding that she was only one woman, she decided to start a non-profit with the mission of reaching more students behind bars. Other teachers and enthusiasts stepped up to help.
Two years and many hours of donated labor later, Yoga Behind Bars was born. From 2007 until 2009, we grew from 2 teachers at 1 facility to 20 teachers at 7 facilities. In 2009, Traisman followed her heart to India and YBB, under the direction of volunteer Natalie Smith, began building the support structure necessary to sustain all those fabulous programs. The Seattle-area yoga community stepped up to the task of truly supporting this work through benefit classes, volunteerism, donations and lots of seriously good vibes.
In July of 2011, we caught the attention of the RiverStyx Foundation, a local Criminal Justice Reform powerhouse, and were awarded a major capacity building grant. It was the best news we’d heard all decade. Today, we are blessed with thousands of inspiring students, 34 beautiful volunteer instructors, 9 radical Board members and two inspired staff members. We bow deeply to all involved – past, present and future.