Virginia Community Yoga, founded in 2016 by Christine Harrell, has moved their focus from being a studio based organization, into doing more community outreach through yoga.
Earlier this year, Christine had become affiliated with the Prison Yoga Project, based in CA, through a certification course, and has recently been approved by the Norfolk City Jail to begin teaching yoga to male and female inmates starting in May of 2018.
As her study into the path of yoga deepened, Harrell knew that there was “more to this thing called Yoga” to be shared with her community. She grew tired of the small space she rented to hold classes, and decided to find ways to “take yoga out to her community.” Which led to her interest in the Prison Yoga Project in 2017.
Many people have asked, “Why prisons and jails?” Jails were close to her heart growing up, seeing her father and brother go in and out of correctional facilities like a revolving door while being a witness to domestic violence. The trauma that she endured through all her senses has made her who she is today.
Reflecting on these experiences through out her Yoga and Ayurvedic journey, she realized that being a good practitioner means embracing all experiences with a compassionate heart and acceptance of the Self and others with an open mind. Now, she looks forward with vision and passion for selfless service and to see the ancient teachings of Yoga blossom in her community.
Upon seeing the research and success of similar programs throughout the country, the Norfolk Sheriff’s Department was welcoming and excited to meet with Christine to develop a a program in Norfolk. Offering these trainings and practices to inmates is an effort of Restorative Justice by assisting them onto a path of reconciliation, providing them with tools of self-awareness, mindfulness, and nonviolent communication to re-assimilate back into society. This will be a year-round program that rotates every three months between the men’s and women’s facilities.
Once the program is underway, Harrell intends to organize a Prison Yoga Project training for the Hampton Roads area, so that any local instructors who are also interested in joining the VA Community Yoga Jail Project can receive adequate training on how to approach this population with yoga.
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