Several of the teen boys who attended Transformation Yoga Project classes during August of 2016 at Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center in Lima opened a dialogue with the incarcerated men at Graterford who are currently participating in our 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training program. The following excerpts have been extracted from their lengthy written exchanges.
Q. When did you get into yoga and what is the benefit to you as an individual?
A. "I first got into yoga when I was in punitive custody/solitary confinement otherwise known as The Hole. It was very helpful to me physically, mentally, and spiritually. I felt more comfortable in my own body, mentally clear, alert, at peace and more in tune, or attuned, spiritually. Yoga is giving me a new tool for self-control and self-mastery."
A. "I got into yoga as a means to stretch and strengthen my muscles. While I did stretch and strengthen, I began to notice things about myself that I never knew. Now I can try different things to change. Becoming a good person is about realizing the things we are not satisfied with in our character, accepting the circumstances that have contributed to the attitude or behavior and taking small steps to improve."
Q. Do you have regrets about the negative choices you've made in life?
A. "I have regrets every day I wake up in jail knowing how much harm I did to my friend, family, and neighborhood. I wish I could take it all back. Yoga helps me to slow down my thinking process and see life in a different way. I'm mindful that nothing negative can come from yoga and it feels great."
A. "Today I would love to take a different road, do things from a whole new perspective. Life has changed drastically for me because I now know the value of life."
A. "I do have regrets. Regret is a big part of my life. The more conscious and keen and sensitive I become to the value of life, not just human life, the heavier regret weighs on me for having hurt one. I wish I could travel back in time to change my choices. But I wouldn't want to not end up learning the lessons I've learned and meeting the beautiful people that I've come to know. I just wish that I could undo someone getting hurt. I wish I could erase all the pain and replace the loss I've caused. But I know I can't, and I've learned that regret is the past crippling us in the present. So, I've committed the rest of my life to sacrifice and service for bringing about a more livable world and a healthier planet for all life."
Q. What is the best advice you can give to a kid struggling with the law and my parents?
A. "The best advice I can give to youngsters who are like I was is to always make choices that are in harmony with your potentials or what you're really good at. If you're good at drawing, painting, building things, writing poetry, whatever it is, make choices that support or give you more opportunities to strengthen and maximize those gifts. Always choose the path that builds good character in you, the path that makes you a better person. If you do so, you will reach your highest destiny. The path to quick money, respect or thrills doesn't always lead to a higher destiny, but can lead to misfortune."
A. "Learn what respect really is. If you disagree with your folks, that's fine, we all do. Do it respectfully. Ask for help. At your age, someone is usually willing to help. When you get older, not so much."
A. "Mahatma Ghandi said 'Be the change you want to see in the world.' So, if you're having difficulties with your parents and you wish they were more loving and supportive, then you need to be more loving and supportive. You have the power to shape the world around you."
A. "If you are struggling with the law, stop breaking it!"
Q. I wanna know, when and how can I get that spark to change and move on from doing the bad things?
A. "Sounds like you already have that spark. I would try to explore what you wish to do with it. A spark is power and you can use your power to do good things as well as bad things. You just need to learn: A. You have power. B. What you are going to do with it."
A. "You have to ask yourself what you want out of life. If it's nothing, then keep doing negative things and you'll have nothing. However, if you want your life to be full of meaning and possibilities, you'll find the things you enjoy most and you'll make those your goal."
Q. Does yoga help you think about different ways to cope with your problems?
A. "The mental benefits of yoga are unbelieveable. The yoga path has made me a better person. I am a lot less reactionary- keeping my cool keeps me out of The Hole. The physical benefits have been increased flexibility and strength (it compliments my other workout routines), better digestive health (which is of the utmost importance because both the food and the water here are bad), and I sleep better."
A. "The violence of prison is easy. Putting myself through mental warfare is hard. Yoga and meditation has TRANSFORMED me for the better. Yoga helps me think of healthier and more creative ways to think."
TRANSFORMATION YOGA PROJECT IS GRATEFUL FOR THE SUPPORT OF TULA SOFTWARE WHICH SPONSORS A PORTION OF OUR WORK AT THE LIMA JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER, AND FOR THE SUPPORT OF ALL OF OUR DONORS WHO MAKE THIS YOGA SERVICE POSSIBLE.
DONATE TODAY TO SPONSOR THESE COURAGEOUS INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE CHOSEN A PATH OF HEALING AND NONVIOLENCE, AND ARE MOVING AWAY FROM A LIFE OF TRAUMA AND PAIN. $50 WILL PURCHASE ONE STUDENT'S 200-YTT TRAINING MANUAL. $100 WILL FUND ALL OF ONE STUDENT'S SUPPLIES. $500 WILL PROVIDE A FULL SCHOLARSHIP FOR THE TRAINING.