A Teacher's Reflections: Sharing Yoga With Incarcerated Women
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
By Allison Ray Jeraci
Photo by Andrea Killam
Yoga teachers typically dedicate themselves to helping others. They do this in a variety of settings, including gyms, offices, and yoga studios. Some teachers go outside of the box a bit, putting together yoga groups in chiropractors’ offices, at churches, or at senior centers. Then there are teachers like Denise Nobile, who bring their teaching into an environment that few yoga teachers are either willing or prepared to enter.
Twice a month, Denise parks her car in a lower level parking lot of the Taconic Correctional Facility, and sits there awhile to quiet her mind. She then continues the drive up to the main lot of that medium security prison for women in Bedford Hills, New York, where she teaches yoga. She rings the buzzer, shows her ID, and waits with others who volunteer their time and services at the prison. When all the volunteers have arrived, they leave their personal belongings with an officer, walk through a metal detector, and are scanned by a security wand to make sure they are not entering the facility with anything unapproved by the administration. This requires that Denise leave behind even her personal yoga mat. She is escorted into the visitors’ room, which she soon transforms into a yoga space. The guard unlocks a cabinet containing mats Denise has gathered from donations, which she then arranges into a circle before her class arrives to practice.