As we barrel forward in this month of July it’s a gift to have the opportunity to open this newsletter with a moment to pause and reflection. Women are the embodiment of the power to create, nurture, sustain and transform. The idea of ‘woman’ conjures up the images of selfless love, care and affection while at the same time, women ignite the spirit of power and hope. Presently it is the keen leadership of women and girls who are leading key intersectional conversations as well as powering efforts to reform America socially and culturally with both the #MeToo movement and #MarchForOurLives.
Women are also the true pioneers of the growing prison yoga movement in the United States. Countless women across the country have taken their desire for health and wellness contained in their yoga practice and combined it with their activist convictions and the desire to see real criminal justice reform. Women are the driving force of providing incarcerated people the unconditional presence which is vital to the healing process.
As a man of color, I feel a sense of treasure and reward to work in the trenches alongside such inspirational women at Liberation Prison Yoga who are in so many ways, my great teachers and leaders. Here are two reasons why:
- Not just women as leaders, but allowing a “feminine” leadership style to lead the work.
Patriarchal mindset not only seeks to assert power over women but patriarchy also creates power structures and competition within circles of men. The feminine leadership style embraced by Liberation Prison Yoga demonstrates that the nurturing qualities aren’t just found in the yoga, but in every corner of the organization and in every interaction between people. Less competition, more nurturing and care.
- Women do the important emotional work.
The unconditional model conceived by Anneke Lucas offers victims of trauma a platform of self-compassion that so many incarcerated men and men, in general, are in need of. As a co-lead of juvenile programs at Rikers Island Prison, I have witnessed the many harmful behaviors of boys and men. One of the most detrimental is how we as men stuff our emotions, never allowing ourselves to become vulnerable and to share our feelings and our emotional core.
The work of Liberation Prison Yoga seeks to help the incarcerated heal trauma and dismantle conditioned links between emotion and antisocial behaviors, and consciously choose mature responses to emotional triggers. For men generally, and especially for men in prison, clarity comes after doing emotional work. All the while, it is dynamic women who encourage the process of healing and supporting men to become whole.
This month I send special appreciation and thanks to the many female yoga warriors who through their own examples of womanhood are helping to shape the core expressions of masculinity.