Today we discovered that Michael, a trainee from our first cohort of Teacher Trainings Behind Bars, passed away. Michael was a beautiful human in his 60s who wanted to provide trauma-informed yoga to his peers at Monroe. He was a quiet soul whose input to our training was always thoughtful and enhanced our conversations.
From Michael: “I was a self-taught yoga instructor in the Federal Prison System at Leavenworth, Kansas for three years. I have remained pretty much to myself the five years I have been here in Walla Walla…In the past I enjoyed three years of guiding a yoga program. I was self taught from various yoga periodicals and videos. I had several in my classes that were more knowledgeable than I, and I learned from their experience…I would like to engage in learning more about yoga to bring my mindset into a more positive state. I spent four years in closed custody [solitary confinement], which was a very negative environment.”
And from Laura, our lead trainer behind bars who worked with Michael for eight months as he and the other nine men trained to instruct: “Michael was a kind and gentle soul. I will remember him as a quiet and perceptive student, as focused and determined to maintain some level of self awareness and self care in the face of his circumstances. He was a runner. The guys in our YBB TT often talked about seeing him out in the yard running and praised him for his discipline. He talked about how running brought him clarity of mind. Although he didn’t share often in class, when he did, it came from a place of self reflection, maybe that was a direct result of his disciplined running practice. He was magnetic and subtly playful and I feel fortunate to have known him.”
Rest in peace and power Michael, we will miss you and are so thankful for everything you gave to Yoga Behind Bars
In mid-March, we decided to pause all our volunteer-led programs to protect or students and volunteers. Ever since we have been working tirelessly to find alternative solutions to reach our students and we are confident that what comes out of this will be a stronger, more connected organization.
Check out these yoga cards for youth from a YBB community member – 50% of proceeds go to YBB!
The Vagus Nerve – read about yoga for anxiety.