I snapped this stark picture of an empty "room" at a juvenile detention center today.
The frosted window allows for filtered sunlight, but no sight.
On second thought, referring to this cinderblock cell as a room is probably far too kind. However, when asking such questions as, "Can I have a yoga mat for my room?" that's what the teens contained within this facility call it. Sadly, the answer is no. Current policy states that prayer rugs are permitted, but yoga mats are not.
My co-teacher and I were locked on this secure pod for 15 minutes after teaching back-to-back detention yoga classes this afternoon. Even that short amount of time waiting for a staff escort felt entirely too long. The cryptic cold emptiness of solitary stillness quickly became claustrophobic. We found ourselves peering behind the curtain of the juvenile justice system... and we'd be lying if we said we liked what we saw.
After catching a glimpse of what our students' lives are really like behind closed security doors, I understand why they're so grateful for the opportunity to spend a few hours of their week practicing yoga with us. What's infinitely more difficult to face is the fact that the faces which greet us with smiles at the beginning of every class will be pressed upon such a poor excuse for a mattress at the end of each day. My mother's heart finds it hard to imagine any child calling this heartless space home.
Yet, once again, my passion to serve within the prison system is renewed. In the midst of an ocean of overwhelming obstacles, my purpose is to present possibility and positivity through the transformative power of yoga. After today, I feel ever more blessed for the freedom to share this practice with those who've had their freedom revoked.