Instructing Yoga While Incarcerated
by John Gianoli
I enjoy yoga; and since being incarcerated, I do it every day in one form or another. Fortunately for me, I also teach the yoga class Monday through Friday. In teaching the yoga class in prison, I am afforded the unique opportunity to touch the lives of fellow inmates. Whenever they tell me of the benefits that they get from yoga class, I just light up inside.
Some of my students have shared the following:
“I was a very angry man when I came to prison. John’s yoga class is the high point of my day. When I twist and breathe under his direction, I let go of tension that I did not realize was even there. After yoga, I have the ability to get along with others when I might otherwise snap.”
“My knees were shot before yoga. Since I have strengthened the muscles around my knee-joint and made them more limber, I can now walk distances that I could never do before.”
I used to get injured every time I played racquetball. I had to quit. Since taking yoga, I can now play and not worry about backaches.”
“Before doing yoga class, I could never get to sleep on the hard mattress in my cell. Now with my body more limber, I sleeps most nights with no problem.”
“In yoga class with John, I enter a zone like no other in this prison. He plays music and dims the lights. We focus on our breath and our bodies become an instrument of meditation. I cease to be in prison and my spirit is free; that escape is priceless.”
“Mentally, I am much sharper after yoga. I count my breaths and watch my balance. I am now aware of how I treat my body.”
Comments like these keep me teaching the class! When I can to prison, I started to run. If I ran three miles or more, I was devastated with knee and ankle pain. After doing yoga for a year, I started running again, at the age 56. I am now running more than 20 miles every Saturday morning, with no soreness. I have no doubt that I can run this far now because of my yoga practice. The yoga class has been a blessing for me and I hope that it continues to bless those that I can touch with this wonderful discipline.