in depth


A Captive Audience

Teaching Yoga to Incarcerated Teens

My journey teaching incarcerated teens started with an experience at a Yoga Journal conference. I was attending a guided meditation workshop when a voice in my head said: “You must teach yoga to kids in jail.” I was startled and took a pause and then resumed my guided practice. As the workshop continued, again the voice was loud and clear repeating the same phrase. Thus my adventure as a yoga teacher to teen boys in the prison system began.

The class is a "volunteer” class, which means the boys have a choice whether or not to participate. I bring my mP3 player and sometimes a gong. We practice for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. My dress is always as a professional Kundalini Yoga teacher, with my head covered, wearing white or light colors of a respectful, graceful design.

Our time together is rich, rewarding, fun and exhilarating. I mentally chant the Mangala Charan mantra to prepare for class, so I am relaxed and comfortable in the sterile environment. The boys in class are bright-eyed and eager to learn about yoga practice and fully participate in both the yoga and meditation portions of the session.

Our classes focus on self-regulation through the breath, as well as mental and vocal mantra projection. I teach them the concept of connecting mantra with breath (inhale “Sat” – Truth, exhale “Nam” – Identity). Philosophically, I share about how to deal with life and to take responsibility for the choices you make. My favorite Kundalini yoga exercises for this population include Sat Kriya and Awakening Your Ten Bodies.

It is not important to me why these boys are there. We have all made mistakes. I’ve shared with my students my own past struggles with addictive behavior patterns and how I’ve successfully and victoriously released those patterns and developed positive behaviors that have allowed me to make quantum leaps in my personal growth and awareness.

My hope, as I write this article, is that my story will inspire a few yogis out there to explore this avenue of service in their communities. Our youth need teachers and positive role models to guide them and support them. Take the time to explore and create a unique venue for teaching Kundalini Yoga and meditation— for me it has been an amazing way to create my “personal altitude.”

Mandeep Kaur/Melanie Abderrahman 
Yoga Instructor, Owner of Sage Hills Yoga & Retreat Center

Recommended: Hey, Yoga Man!: Yoga Practices for Everyday Life from a Prison Yoga Practice By Shiva Steve Ordog


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