We stacked the Hugger Mugger donated mats so high on our rolling cart, they almost toppled off. Before heading over to the women’s housing unit, we called the tower and the deputy on duty told us the participants were waiting for us with “great anticipation.” We, too, felt excited. Tonight’s yoga class was not only the Unconditional Freedom Project’s first in-person class at the Mendocino County Jail, it was the first live programming the women (or any jail resident) had had since Covid lockdown began 15 months earlier. Even though we hadn’t yet met each other, our shared joy was palpable.
5 women signed up for class ahead of time and 2 extra joined when the floor deputy opened the heavy steel door and yelled “Yoga!” Yep, the class was about to start. We rolled in with a cart of yoga mats of assorted colors. Each woman chose the color she wanted for her mat and then we had enough extra mats for each one to have a second mat as a prop. We all used the rolled up mats as makeshift meditation cushions/bolsters.
In the beginning, we did a round of names and those with injuries mentioned them. We talked about everyone listening to their bodies more than my instructions and to rest whenever needed. One woman said she didn’t feel well, so she mostly rested. Overall the class was lighthearted. We laughed. Some of the women teased each other in a sisterly kind of way. Another woman said halfway through that her back was starting to let go. Everyone was quiet during the final savasana. We did class outside in the yard, so there was a lattice blue sky above and a gentle breeze coming through the chain-link fence cover. My colleague Marissa was the timekeeper and went in and out to check the clock a handful of times. I gotta get myself a watch!
Before we left, each woman asked us if we were coming back and thanked us for coming. One said she was getting out soon and asked if she could keep going with her Art of Soulmaking correspondence course after her release.
The women were delightful and collectively a bit silly. There was a moment when we talked about different ideas of what they could put on their feet during leg-up-the-wall pose to anchor their legs a bit more in their pelvis. One woman made a wisecrack and then the yard erupted in laughter. Can’t wait till next week!