Reflections of a Prison Yoga Instructor
Written by Lulu Taylor
I didn't know what to expect, having never visited a prison before. The compound was all shades of grey and the walls high, enveloped in barbed wire at the top. Reinforced gates greeted us at every junction, the corridors empty and sterile. On the surface, Lo Wu didn't appear to be a place where love and laughter could grow, but within our students, it flourished.
Again, breaking my preconceived notions, our class was a motley crew of beautiful women from all walks of life and surprisingly, none were Chinese. One student later confided that having an English based workshop was very special to them as they often miss out on places in Cantonese programs, despite many of them being able to speak the language.
Our class was rascally and they loved to pipe up and share their jokes and self deprecate, but they too showed so much love and care for their fellow inmates. I was so touched and inspired by their sense of community and support of one another, they have the hearts of yogi's with bodies yet to be trained. On the outside, many of us are the opposite - supple and strong, but lacking connection with our fellow living beings.
Our classes were simple, focussing a lot on breathing techniques that we hoped our students would be able to remember and practice long after we left. Their bodies often stiff, they struggled with some of the asanas, but they did their best and appeared to enjoy the process. Yoga nidra was my favourite moment of every class. Watching these women, who's stories I didn't know, but knew that they weren't easy, melting into pure peace. Their faces softening, content, finding a warm and safe haven within themselves, despite the bars that held their physical bodies prisoner. They would come in distracted and full of beans and leave calm and collected - I think I did too.
Being of service to these women has unlocked a part of my heart that I didn't know was there - I really hope we are able to continue working amongst the prisons in Hong Kong, as this is a community I want to be a part of. Saying goodbye was very emotional, both so proud and happy to have had the opportunity to serve, yet so sad to say goodbye.