YogaBodyWorks, in partnership with The Samaritans Foundations Recovery Point Project, take yoga and meditation classes to people exiting drug and alcohol facilities, prison inmates and ex-inmates within the Hunter region.
I'm often amazed how many people these days will openly share and expose the darker sides of their nature and self destructive addictions to help others. The power of sharing with other human beings - both our strengths, and weaknesses - opens our hearts, dissolves the barriers of isolation and empowers us with the often elusive solution to our problems both large and small.
It's not new. Being real with others empowers them to do the same. We have all heard ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ - living by example is the most powerful act of giving we can be to each other, giving is the way toward harmonious, humble and happy lives. Challenges never end, yet our attitude toward them does, we start to see growth and opportunity for transformation rather than struggling alone.
As the years go by, I see major turning points in my own journey toward spiritual awakening and Yoga. I see the interconnectedness and ripple effects of my early experiences, shaping a pathway I chose to walk on. Stories are a powerful tool. I had a powerful story when I was young and immature. It was the story of a victim, a disempowered, disenfranchised individual - I am glad to say over the years this changed. How did it change? It changed through listening to others relate their own powerful stories of transformation, having blindness turned into something like real insight and vision.
As a young boy, my mum had a foster family, Fay and Allen Craig whom I called Mum and Dad. Dad worked at Long Bay gaol where we would often pick him up. As a young boy I would watch and wait for him to come out as if he might not. In 1978, the year drink driving laws were introduced, my mother was killed by a drunk driver. Her de-facto drove into the back of a parked truck. I did not know it then but the impact of these painful experiences would pave the way for ego deflation at depth, something I am now seeing with clarity and gratitude.
Dad went on to work and run Katingal, a section of Long Bay Correctional Centre that was deemed as inhumane, I was 11 years old when this section of the jail was closed. Not long after it shut down he took me and showed me inside. I remember not wanting to leave his side, the prisoners were gone but the atmosphere of fear, tension and negative energy remained. Around this time he was attacked by an inmate of Long Bay and almost killed, I attended the court case and remember reading the history of this man accused of trying to end his life. Murder, arson, rape and bombings - the list went on for pages and pages, yet it wasn't until he was brought up from the cells below Sydney's Supreme Court that I understood how devilish a human being could end up, and how frightening a man could be.
I’m happy to say through my own personal battles with alcoholism and drug addiction, prison systems and it’s inmates would continue to influence my life, and I would learn that people, and myself, can change for the better. No matter how bad they, or their lives, have become. Yoga, meditation, and dropping the blame story have worked the miracle in my life, saving me from my own journey of alcoholism, drug addiction and crime. I have often wished for the opportunity to provide these techniques to those who need them the most - now that opportunity is fast becoming a reality.
Through yoga and meditation I have come to realise and see people consistently recover from unproductive lives - lives spiralling out of control. For many years I have envisioned offering prison inmates these techniques. These are some of the people in most need, and I know they will experience instant relief. I have watched friends cycle in and out of boys homes and eventually prison systems. It has left me with a great sense of compassion and empathy. I know many of them would have changed if only they had known how. Fortunately we have seen huge progress over the last 20 years in relation to mindfulness and meditation as the missing factor in helping to affect change from within.
We know without doubt that if a man can rewire his mind and emotions he will automatically draw forth everything necessary to cultivate a new and empowered life. We now have the opportunity.
Yoga Body Works Newcastle in partnership with The Samaritans Foundations Recovery Point Project, funded by NSW Heath, is excited to announce we will be offering yoga and meditation classes to prison inmates, ex inmates and people exiting drug and alcohol facilities within the Hunter region. One of our main objectives is to offer Cessnock Correctional Centre and its inmates a way to make life easier, and to prove the effects of yoga and meditation. We all know helping in this way will help all involved: staff, inmates, families and society as a whole. Its flow on effect is potentially massive.
We're interested in empowered living, in transcending stress altogether. We can't change the factors that cause stress. Our courses are about rising above reactivity and starting to live life mindfully rather than in reaction to everything. When you start to make this internal shift, you start to live from a deeper more peaceful place.
YogaBodyWorks is offering Cessnock Correctional Centre a 12-week course for inmates, consisting of 1 hour yoga class, followed by 30 minutes of meditation/mindfulness techniques. The first week we will introduce the inmates to a modern and practical approach to yoga and mindfulness. The inmates will learn about the results and effects of these practices and how they can effect positive change by taking charge and ownership of what they create.
Phase Change Mindfulness
Principles and benefits of Mindfulness
Guided Yin and basic Power yoga practice
Chakras and Meridians
Therapeutic benefits and scientific evidence.
The effectiveness of mindfulness is demonstrated in more than 1,000 research studies in peer-reviewed journals. Mindfulness research yields reduction in a variety of symptoms such as: pain, anxiety, stress, depressive relapse, hostility, and disordered eating whilst promoting one's ability to cope with pain, stress, increase in energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem.
The brain is not static but continually morphing itself in response to experience. This is why punching bags and weight sets enforce the problem of aggression.
Neuroplasticity has transformed neuroscience. We now know the neurons in our brain are functional until the day we die and are driven by repetitive experience. Negative and traumatic experience can atrophy brain function and brain size, BUT therapy and moving in positive direction can restore it, potentially.
Finally I would like to remind our yoga community and its teachers and staff, that without your support none of this would of been possible and to thank Michael Self from the Samaritans Recovery Point Project for embracing us.
- Karl Jaross