Prison Yoga with Bob Dylan

from One Street Shy, June 15, 2012

I received it as a gift a while back. While I was in the middle of teaching a yoga class it was dropped at my studio door by UPS. The package had no return address, and my name and address had been handwritten on the outside. After class, I sat on my mat with my package and opened it. I found a note resting in the bowl, which was nestling protectively inside of a multi-colored quilt. It read, “Jennifer, I wanted to thank you for coming to teach us and being so kind. I have a hard time sitting and quieting my mind, but when I make things it helps me meditate. I hope you enjoy these gifts and want you to know how much your visiting and teaching us means to me. Namaste, Janet”

Janet was an inmate at the Woman’s Prison and one of my yoga students. She was also a lifer who had already served eighteen years. I had been volunteering in the prison to teach yoga to the inmates for some months and Janet had always been my most enthusiastic student. She looked like the sort of person you’d find working at a Starbucks – very polite, wholesome looking and always neat and clean. I never knew what put her in prison for life at the age of nineteen, and to be honest, I never wanted to know. I had asked the women in charge of the program to please not tell me why any of my students were there. As I saw it, I was there to teach, to help their present state of mind and to alleviate anxiety. I was afraid that if I knew what it was that put them behind bars I might judge them without meaning to…..I’m only human…

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