Sarah Ryan was involved in a yogathon in Guy’s Marsh Prison. Thank you Sarah for letting us share your experiences:
On January 26th Shaftesbury yoga teacher Sally Rainbowchild organised a Yogathon in Guy’s Marsh Prison where she teaches yoga regularly. Having earlier sent her my passport details, I turned up that morning and was let in. If you have never entered a prison, it can be quite intimidating, and it was very reassuring to see Sally’s beaming face on the other side of the door lock!
She took me to the gym, where it was taking place. The first session had been led by an inmate who has already taught over 80 hours of yoga, and has signed up for a Yoga Teaching Diploma correspondence course. He has been in prison for 8 years and is hoping to be transferred soon to an open prison, and then to be released in the foreseeable future – when we said good bye, he said “See you on the outside”.
I looked at the twenty-odd prisoners and prison officers on the mats: I knew that some had practised yoga quite a lot, and several had never done it before. I had just under an hour. I had a strong feeling that I wanted to use sound, but at the same time was wary of putting off beginners. I did a simple practice, using asana with breathing, sometimes putting two different ones into a short sequence. When people lay down for relaxation, I talked a little about the beautiful concept of shantih – of how it means ‘peace’, not in the sense of finding a perfect island somewhere, but ‘remaining undisturbed even in the midst of chaos’. I then said that I was going to chant it, and they should just let the vibrations flow around and through them. I chanted just three of four times, but the sound filled that great hall. It was a very special moment.
People like Sally are doing wonderful work. Giving prisoners and officers the chance to experience yoga is so valuable and a significant boost to our society.
Thank you Sarah for your write up, I have heard from other volunteers involved in the day that the sound resonating around the gym was powerful and healing!