Yoga might not be first on Washington's returning citizen population minds when comprising a resolution list for the new year, but some say thanks to their incarceration yoga has aided them on their journey home.
"Mikey" Davis said he was incarcerated at Rivers Correctional in northeast North Carolina when he first connected with yoga.
"Man, I had heard about it, but didn't really get into it until I went to Rivers," he said. "I saw they were going to have a class in the gym and just figured I would sign up - you know, just to have something to do."
He admitted that he also had a reoccurring back pain due to three years of sleeping on a prison bunk. "Those bunks were no joke," he claimed, "because a lot of people end up with something wrong with their backs."
Davis said he went to the gym the morning of the new class, and was surprised to see about 40 people had shown up for the class. As inmates got their mats and claimed their spots, he saw many of the other inmates sitting in the bleachers looking on. He added that the class was taught by one of the other inmates who worked as an instructor at a previous facility.
The class lasted an hour and a half and it appeared that many of the people enjoyed themselves. Davis mentioned that his back felt a little better and convinced three other guys in his unit to come out. And the following class (two days later) there were 50 people that had signed up (the class had to be limited to 35).
Since his days at Rivers, Davis has continued to practice yoga, but he doesn't do it at a facility - he does it in his living room.
"When I left Rivers and finished up my time at the halfway house, I decided to keep going but I didn't have the money to go to a class," he said. "So I talked to my probation officer, and he recommended checking out Youtube." When Davis got home, he logged on to Youtube and found tons of videos on Yoga. He said, "When I saw all of those videos I thought I had hit the jackpot."
Minorities are more likely to be overweight or have chronic health conditions [that might be related to their weight].
Yoga found its way West via Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk who toured Europe and the United States in the late 19th century. Throughout that time it has moderate success and developed a rebirth in the 1980s, thanks to Vivekananda follower Dean Ornish. Since the 80s it there have been a number of studies done to determine what positive effects it has on a person's physical health. There are numerous levels of skill available for anyone looking to give it a shot.
Many studies have tried to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma and heart patients. In a national survey, Long-term yoga practitioners in the US have reported improvements to their musculo–skeletal and mental health, according to a national survey taken shortly after the 21st Century.
Yoga is for everyone. Presently there are studies being conducted globally by using yoga as an intervention for cancer patients, and as a form of alternative treatment for depression, anxiety, insomnia, arthritis pain, stress, and fatigue.
Recently The Washington Post did a story noting that more and more DC residents are switching to yoga as a way of connecting with their mind, body, and soul at the same time.
In the article area Kirpalu yoga instructor Dena Kahn put it bluntly, "No one there has a perfect body. We all have something that you could wish wasn't there. We're just laying that on the table. We're not hiding anything."
The Post says that Kahn's Curvy yoga class is growing in popularity because it focuses on self improvement rather than comparison, but to DC resident Miller Watson, that's the whole point of yoga as a whole.
"Yoga is about getting all these spiritual disciplines conquered," he said. "It's one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy. It's not about defeating anyone and not about winning; it's about winning over yourself."
Watson is a 47 year old African Ameriacan, and has been practicing yoga for almost half his life. Watson said he used to have high blood pressure and serious back pain, but since he started getting into yoga seriously - his health improved.
"I got into it while doing two years in federal prison," he added. "It turned out to be my saving grace. This old Muslim that was locked up with me got me into it, and I haven't looked back. I won't say that I've completely managed to stay out of trouble, but I've worked hard to keep working with yoga, and trying to incorporate the philosophy into my life. I think more black and ex-offenders should consider it as an option."
The newspaper also list a few yoga options in DC for those who have health issues or are overweight:
A few studios offer specialized yoga:
- Dena Kahn
Gentle yoga, curvy, restorative, kids
- Blue Heron Wellness
Silver Spring, Md.
Liz Butler, yoga director
Restorative Yoga, plus sized, gentle
- Lil Omm Yoga
Curvy Yoga, gentle, for cancer survivors, restorative
- Allay Yoga
Pamela Kaufman, yoga director
Gentle yoga, prenatal
But what about African-Americans based yoga? Are there yoga options for African-Americans or low-income Washingtonians? Davis mentioned that while he often is watching yoga videos on Youtube, but says he's considering joining a group or fitness club that offers it.
One option might be checking out Anacostia Yogi, as noted by Sariane Leigh's website, a certified yoga instructors and pilates instructors who said on on her site: Residents living east of the river really want and need high quality health alternatives that address prevention not just sickness...Anacostia now has an emerging yoga, Pilates, zumba, African dance martial arts, urban farming and eco-conscious community.
She offers yoga every Monday at the Ryland Epworth Methodist Church at 3200 S Street SE 7pm-8pm. Leigh offers options for the African-American community in DC.
1. PIES Fitness Yoga, in Alexandria, Virginia (Marsha Banks Harold, owner)
2. Embrace, in the NW DC neighborhood of Adams Morgan (Faith Hunter, owner)
3. Spiritual Essence Yoga, in Upper Marlboro, MD (Dana Smith, owner)
5. Jordin's Paradise, in the NW DC neighborhood of Shaw (Rania Jaziri, owner)
You can learn more about what's going on East of the River by reaching at firstname.lastname@example.org.