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Jun 13, 2018

5 Female Inmates are Certified Yogis

Today, five women in prison were officially certified as yoga instructors after two years of intensive classes conducted by non-profit yoga organization Rhythm of Change. There are thirty-seven women incarcerated at this time, the majority for illegal entry. While yoga is a relatively new offering in the rehabilitation of females, the prison reports that there have been significant benefits.  About twenty-five to thirty of the women take lessons once or twice a week and of that number, the five who have been certified will soon be teaching yoga to other inmates. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Rosalilia ‘Lily’ Castillo

Rosalilia ‘Lily’ Castillo, Certified Yoga Instructor

“My attitude was really compulsive with anger and with an addiction also, like alcohol. It numbs the brain. You cannot think. But with Yoga – I took it like a hobby. My number one hobby to replace the bad habits so that I can think better, because it is a healthy exercise.”

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Rosalilia ‘Lily’ Castillo is one of five women who received yoga teacher training certificates at the Belize Central Prison. The women, who are inmates at the facility, have completed two years of voluntary yoga training under the guidance of the Rhythm of Change led by Yoga instructor Michelle Williams.

 

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams, Founder, ROC

“We started with the teacher training and they were very dedicated. They studied a lot. They practiced a lot. There was a lot to overcome because some of them suffered from tremendous anxiety. And we overcome the anxiety with them teaching in front of their classmates, that is one thing. But then now to go out and teach in front of strangers, that is another thing. But they found that strength and they found that calm. It is a wonderful achievement for them and now they are certified yoga teachers and after they have completed some hours of teaching, we will go ahead and register them with yoga alliance and  then the world can see.”

 

Now, these newly certified yoga instructors are equipped to teach yoga and they will start teaching other women in prison. This activity is a part of the rehabilitation of imprisoned women – and as C.E.O. Virgilio Murillo explains, it empowers them to use this newly acquired skill to earn a living even after they are released.

 

Virgilio Murillo

Virgilio Murillo, C.E.O., Kolbe Foundation

“The purpose of training them is so that they could become teachers and in turn teach the program to the other female inmates whilst they are in prison. Secondly, it also allows them to earn a skill which they can use when they return to society and probably open their own yoga classes and even work with people who offer yoga classes because quite a number of these centers are popping up in Belize these days. And it makes them very employable.”

 

And while this opens up new opportunities, according to Lilly, one of the best things about doing yoga is the personal transformation. It has helped her to remain focused and avoid conflict with other inmates.

 

Rosalilia ‘Lily’ Castillo

“Giving us a peace of mind; living a healthier and happier life. For example, we will be restraining from drugs, alcohol, criminal acts. It balances our mind to have a renewal of set mind so that we could perform that would be wise for our living.”

 

Added to that, the management of the facility has recorded fewer violent incidents inside the prison. They say that since the programme started two years ago – they have noted a positive difference among the females.

 

Virgilio Murillo

“In our prison we notice that we don’t have any brawl or riots or fights much at the female section. We have not had to come and rescue a prisoner who is being beaten by another woman prisoner and I think that is one of the benefits of yoga. It definitely allows them to deal with their stress issues, of course it is a type of exercise that keeps them in good shape and health and that kind of stuff.  In the past we did used to have ruction at the female section now and again. But for arguments’ sake, for this year, we have not had even a little quarrel amongst these people. Last year it was very minimal and so I would want to attribute that to the fact that yoga is being taught in the prison to the women inmates.”

 

This yoga teacher training programme is a part of a bigger effort that Ambassador Shabazz introduced to the prison. As she explains, these women will also help conduct yoga sessions with the staff, as well as with the residents at the Wagner’s Facility.

 

Attallah Shabazz

Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, Founder, Pilgrimage Foundation

“How do you introduce something as abstract as yoga? So, we have the opportunity to sample it with the course of the curriculum and now we see the results of it and the articulation of it. And so the women will not only teach the Wagner’s Facility boys, but also their classmates here and the staff also needs it because if you are in a place like this, you are also under pressure.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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