More firsthand, from jail, proof of Ashtanga yoga’s great impact

Robbie Norris from Richmond Private Yoga and his Richmond City Jail Ashtanga Yoga Program posted this week that his jail yoga program — in part supported by the Broome St. Temple — has gotten another three-year commitment of support to continue its work helping prisoners.

Here’s a a quick summary of the program via Robbie:

I teach the men two classes per week; one class is an hour and a half and the other is an hour and 45 minutes.  The chapel can accommodate up to 15 men, with mats an inch apart andthe pews upturned and pushed to the wall; usually eight to 15 men attend.  About half the students also practice daily on their tier between classes.  Each tier holds up to 100 men; visualize big steel cages with triple bunks and two-inch thick mattresses, in a very confined space — not an ideal space for yoga, but they find a way to practice.  I constantly remind them that the value lies in the commitment to daily practice, and assure them of the importance of establishing the discipline of dailiness while incarcerated, as the obstacles to the discipline “on the outside” are actually much greater— namely, so much freedom that can easily entail a million “reasons” not to practice.

The news about his continuing work is great, and he deserves a big congratulations for spreading Ashtanga to a population that can so greatly benefit from it.

How do we know it helps? Robbie’s got the firsthand proof from his students. Here’s one:

April 20, 2014
I am 31 years old and was introduced to Ashtanga yoga in the Richmond City Jail, of all places.  After 2 months of incarceration & being clean from drugs, I was encouraged by other members of my tier to participate in the 2 weekly yoga practices.  We all worked out together on the tier, so I expected yoga to just be an extension of our workout routine.
I quickly learned that there was far more to yoga than I originally anticipated; there was meditation and history.  After 4 months of regular practice, I have noticed changes physically, emotionally, as well as, spiritually.  Physically I have increased range of motion, greater balance and better posture than I have ever had in my life.  My morning yoga practices allow me to start the day with noticeable improvements to my general outlook towards life and problem solving abilities.  I find myself coming up w/ solutions that are more creative and effective, when I have practiced earlier that day.  Spiritually yoga has allowed me to be more aware of the world around me and our effect on each other.  I never thought I would find myself practicing any form of meditation, but despite myself, I have come to believe in its positive effect on my sense of peace.  Given my surroundings at the time, it was fairly obvious to me that “what I was doing” wasn’t working for me; and I am grateful that I was openminded & willing enough at the time, to try something new.
Doug Calder
I continue to be blown away by what Robbie is doing. Spreading his work is one of the nicest things about having this blog.
Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “More firsthand, from jail, proof of Ashtanga yoga’s great impact”

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