Many people know we offer yoga to incarcerated people with the help of a core of volunteer yoga instructors.
However, in addition to providing yoga through our core of 65 volunteers, we have 10 yoga teachers who are incarcerated themselves and teach to fellow inmates. These 10 teachers were among 20 who took our two inaugural Yoga Teacher Training Behind Bars in 2016 (Men’s) and 2017 (Women’s). They now teach half of our classes and are valuable advisory members to our team. Two of them interviewed the executive director candidates by phone, for example, and they have provided consulting and advice on grant applications and other items.
We have long wanted to offer another yoga teacher training. We believe that it has profound implications for our students, for the teachers, and for the way in which we approach this work. We know our students want this for themselves, as we get regular and repeated requests from students to offer another, as they seek to deepen their practice and engage others in yoga and meditation.
However, offering a full yoga teacher training in a prison is no easy (or inexpensive) task! The logistical challenges are significant, to put it mildly. The curriculum needs to meet the students’ particular needs and also prepare them to serve as teachers in our community. And integrating long-term mentorship into the program – which we learned from our first training series – takes significant organizational commitment.
Which is why we are so delighted to be joined in this effort through a partnership that sees the value of this training – lululemon’s social impact program, Here to Be! Here to Be provides resources to partner organizations who embrace mindful practices as a means to manage stress and trauma, and we’re thrilled at their deep commitment to our work and our students. They are funding $75,000 toward this effort in 2020, making it possible for us to put it on the calendar and move forward with its planning!
Another valued partner in this work is the Department of Corrections, since a program this scale (drawing our students from facilities across the state, and hosting a multi-month training program) requires significant institutional support. We are grateful that they are eager to have this program back in their facilities and have agreed to host it at Monroe Correctional Center!
While the funding is not yet at 100% for the entire program, we are trusting that we can count on our community to help meet the funding gap to launch this needed training, and are beginning to coordinate the roll-out of this, with its anticipated start date in late Fall.
For now, we are celebrating this huge success and hope you’ll join us in thanking both lululemon and the Washington Department of Corrections.
We’ve been able to gradually expand our offerings in a way that is safe for our instructors and our students. Plus we’ve actually added some awesome new programs!
We’re hiring a Part-Time Program Coordinator!
Teaching in prison requires both a fierce commitment and a powerful ability to detach.