Accessible, inclusive, diverse and adapted yoga is a great tool to heal the physical body and to achieve emotional, spiritual and mental evolution, especially for those who are undergoing drug rehabilitation or in the penitentiary system.
In today’s society men are stressed. Research shows how the social demand is a constant pressure. For example, the need to be perfect, strong, controlled, not showing emotion, providing for others, competing against others, or even worse, competing against themselves. This pressure can lead men to renounce their dreams and true motivations, and frustration becomes evident as their environment is the first to be affected.
An increase in crime and drug use often occurs in men who have suffered complex trauma from an early age, experienced abandonment, rejection, homelessness, violence, sexual abuse, intimidation or discrimination. This reality is reflected in the fact that at most penitentiary and rehabilitation centers, men are treated for mental illness.
It is evident that men have greater difficulty to identify and face emotions. From a young age, they are told “men do not cry” or “fear is for girls”; therefore drug use, alcohol issues and violence increase and become an escape. These are the main causes of admission to prisons and of addictions.
For these men, the practice of yoga means more than toning the body or doing extreme asanas; it is their moment to integrate into their totality. As I work as a yoga teacher with men in the penitentiary system, my intention is to accompany them and help them generate change. During the time that I have spent with them, these are some experiences and benefits that a yoga practice has given them in their own words:
“Yoga is a new experience for me. It has been enriching physically and mentally. It reduces my stress and my mood is more positive.” – Franklin
“When the yoga practice ends, there is a feeling of gratitude with me, with my teacher, with God and the entire universe. I realize I have received a gift and peace is in me.” – Roberto
“Yoga has taught me that at the beginning nothing is easy, but it can be tolerated with time. Every time I have the opportunity to enjoy the privilege of practicing, I will do it happily. “—Marco
“The experience with yoga has been very enriching; my posture, my health, my mood has improved. In summary, I feel happier. ” – Pedro
The practice of physical postures and breathing strengthens the ability to connect with the body, and guided meditation helps to calm the mind and reduce stress (among other benefits). At the same time, the philosophy of yoga helps men develop tolerance, cooperation and nonviolence. By practicing yoga, these men are better able to rethink their behavior, be vulnerable and sensitive, recognize emotions, channel energy to a state of greater awareness, and understand of their own needs as well as those of the others. Thus, they begin to replace destructive and traumatic experiences with more positive and constructive ones.
The practice of yoga and meditation provides men with the time to dream again, to realize that there is always an opportunity to feel good about themselves, and to find peace within. Through their yoga and meditation practice, they are finding freedom. They are free and they have the choice to remain in freedom rather than prison.
Juan Fco. Martínez hails from Costa Rica and is an Ambassador for the Accessible Yoga Organization. He is a certified yoga instructor in Yoga Meditation, Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Inclusive Yoga with emphasis on pathologies and addictions. Juan is a professor of Inclusive Yoga and Meditation at the following facilities: Rostro de Jesús Rehabilitation Center, Fundación Luz y Amor Rehabilitation Center, CAPEMCOL Care Center for People with Mental Illness in Conflicts with the Law, UAI Integral Assistance Unit at the Penitentiary Center La Reforma, and Young Adult Unit at the Penitentiary Center La Reforma. For more information, visit www.yogaconjuan.com.