Sri M led celebrations of the International Yoga Day on June 21, 2022, by inaugurating the ‘Manav Seva – Beyond Barriers’ initiative at the Poojapura Central Jail, Thiruvananthapuram (TCJ) with a yoga session for 50 inmates. Sri M delivered the inaugural address after a round of introductions by prison superintendents. Bharat Yoga Vidya Kendra (BYVK) teachers, and The Satsang Foundation (TSF) volunteers began the session with chanting, warm up exercises, asanas, pranayama and meditation. The inmates joined in wholeheartedly and made this program a huge success.
Yoga brings people together across 11 Indian prisons
‘Manav Seva – Beyond Barriers’ is an initiative launched two months ago, under the auspices of the Government of India by The Satsang Foundation to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. This initiative seeks to introduce Yoga to inmates of the prisons for their inner and outer well being.
On the occasion of The International Yoga Day, Yoga sessions were simultaneously held at Central Prisons in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai and Thrissur.
Inmates share their feedback
The feedback from the participants was very positive. Inmates reported that they could keep negative thoughts at bay after yoga practice. They also said that Yoga had helped reduce insomnia and certain chronic aches and pains. One of the inmates in Bengaluru even reported that his blood sugar level had normalized after he began practicing. An inmate in Chennai said, “By attending the yoga class, we are feeling courageous. We are not afraid.”
The overwhelming response was that Yoga had helped them become more positive and mindful. For those who received trainer certificates, it also afforded an opportunity for gainful employment after prison life. In Hyderabad, the prisoners carried one of the volunteers on their shoulders to show their appreciation.
Volunteers share their experience
It wasn’t just the inmates who benefitted from these sessions. One of the volunteers from Pune noticed that, “the student and teacher demonstrated equal skill and it was undeniably a moment of breaking barriers.”
A volunteer from Chennai said, “It made me realise how we are prisoners of our own mind and thoughts and it is only courage and a willingness to bring about change (inner and outer) that can keep us moving ahead on the path of Yoga.”
“Working with jail inmates helped us shatter the hard boundary of good and bad and helped understand the concept of “manav” better”, a volunteer from Delhi opined.
For many of the teachers and volunteers it was the first time that they were stepping into a prison, but all of them left feeling inspired and transformed in one way or another.
The one thing that was common across prisons was the enthusiasm and sincerity of the inmates evident in how they assembled before time and how well they performed the asanas taught to them. Their perfect performance of asanas and pranayama cheered and inspired the volunteers to do more.
Certificate of Participation, Yoga Manuals, Yoga mats, t-shirts, and sweets were received by the inmates at various prisons with great enthusiasm and they were profuse in their thanks when they came to receiving their certificates of completion. Books by Sri M were also gifted to the libraries at some of the prisons so that the inmates could complement their practice of Yoga with reading on theory. All in all, it was a joyous occasion for both the teacher and the taught.