Architects of a New Dawn

We’d like to show the side of the world you don’t normally see on television.

Prison Yogi teaches peace to his captor

One hot summer day one of our students, Nick, was practicing
yoga in the exercise yard. As he stretched into a
different pose, the razor wire seemed to disappear for a brief
moment. An abrupt, “Hey, you there. Get your shoes on,”
broke his reverie. Nick looked straight up into the face of a
young correctional officer he hadn’t seen before.
“Sorry, officer. Were you speaking to me?”
“Yeah, you’re the only one around here with his shoes off,
aren’t you?”
There’s no particular rule on the books about having to
wear shoes when exercising, but anything is fair game in
prison.
Nick explained to the officer, “This is part of my religious
practice, sir. I’ve been doing yoga in the yard, in this very spot,
for many years, and I’ve never been notified that I’m breaking
any rule.” He stopped short of mentioning the fact that only
days before, the warden had come by and stopped to converse
with a group of men practicing yoga together.
“Rules are rules. Now go on, and put your shoes back on,”
the unimpressed officer retorted.
Seeing the futility in pursuing the matter further and having
no particular need to be right, a universal trait of good yogis,
Nick complied with the order.
As he began to tie his shoelaces, the officer asked, “What
kind of religion is stretching?” Before Nick could formulate
84 SERVING PRODUCTIVE TIME
an answer, the young officer added, “Could that stuff help my
back?”
Suddenly, an energy shift occurred. The officer became a
student, and Nick became a teacher. For more than an hour,
Nick gave him a caring explanation of yoga and also included
a detailed demonstration of postures that would be helpful for
anyone plagued by chronic back pain. They were no longer
adversaries.
Weeks later, Nick was practicing postures in the yard without
shoes. He was joined by a group of other prisoners practicing
in unison. The same young officer strolled over to
report, “My back is much better. I can deal with the pain now.
I feel like a changed man. My family life has improved, and I
enjoy playing with my little boy again, thanks to you.”

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