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VA Community Yoga Jail Project

$1,445 of $2,500 goal

Raised by 30 people in 14 months
29223044_154337374153351_r.jpegVA Community Yoga, founded in 2016 by Christine Harrell, has moved their focus into community outreach through yoga.  Christine has become affiliated with the Prison Yoga Project, based in CA, and has recently been approved by the Norfolk City Jail to begin teaching yoga to inmates starting in May of 2018. 
Harrell became interested in the Prison Yoga Project in 2017, based on her life experiences growing up as a child of domestic violence, and the trauma of seeing her brother and father repeatedly go in and out of correctional facilities.  Reflecting on these experiences through out her Yoga and Ayurvedic journey, she realized that being a good practitioner means embracing all types of experiences with a compassionate heart. These experiences have made her who she is today, looking forward with a passion for selfless service and to see the ancient teachings of Yoga blossom in her community. 
Offering these trainings and practices to inmates is an effort of Restorative Justice by assisting them onto a path of reconciliation, providing them with tools of self-awareness, mindfulness, and nonviolent communication to re-assimilate back into society.  This will be a year-round program, that rotates every three months between the women's and men's correctional facilities.

Any donations to this program will go towards the purchasing of Prison Yoga Project Books specific to male and female inmates, yoga mats, blocks, and t-shirts for inmates upon completion of their three month session.  As VA Community Yoga moves forward with this project, Harrell intends to expand the program by organizing Prison Yoga Project Trainings for the Hampton Roads area.  Other donations accepted are gently used mats and blocks, which can be arranged for local pick-up.  Please contact Christine Harrell, founder and coordinator of the VA Community Yoga Jail Project.

In service, we humbly offer our gratitude, One Love, Namaste.
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Greetings to you all,
I know its been a long while since I've done an updated on the VCYJP. As you all may know, that this project is run by one individual with many loving supporters. Therefore, updates can take awhile. I thank you all for you patience and continued support for VCYJP.

With all that said, since the last post of the men's graduation, the women graduated on Monday, December 17th. As the moon is different than the sun, so were the women and men. The way they held their trauma, how they lashed out, how their emotions where trapped from within and finding their way to deal or heal from all that.
During the 12 weeks, I was asked to teach the chakras (in which I was surprised, apparently they studied when they heard the program was coming to thier block) and with that I taught the poses and affirmations that went along with each chakra. With the yoga, mindful meditations, chanting and non-violent communication teachings, there is an unexplainable feeling that I encountered. A different feeling than the men. Maybe because, I also am a women and even though we all have different walks of life or different stories to tell. We all have feelings, emotions, and sensations that are the same but we deal with them differently. What I witnessed where many break-throughs , not break-downs. I witnessed wilted flowers blossom once again. It may not have been a full bloom but it was enough to see a light shine through the darkness that followed them. I witness them see their beauty through their tears of happiness.
Graduation was bitter sweet, as most yogis understand, we should not have an attachment to any outcome.This go around with my women was hard not to become attached as I lost some to prision. Attachment is beacause I felt that they needed more time. But what is time? All I can do is let go and just hold space as my students go onto another journey, in hopes they continue seeing their light.
Once again, to my community, I thank you for your love and support. All be well and continue doing fabulous things in service and gratitude! Oneness and Namaste'
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“Balance your Life” yoga program Graduation Night! This was the last lecture and physical practice with Christine Harrell, the director of the Virginia Community Yoga Jail Project! Messiah Johnson a former prison inmate speaking to the jail inmates on how yoga has helped him to overcome the experiences of prison and how it was part of his journey to heal and grow from with-in.
“Change starts in here ( prison/jail) , not when you get out....” ~M. Johnson
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It is with humble gratitude for all the support that I would like to inform you all that the Virginia Community Yoga Jail Project has officially begun. I have received many questions after that first day of teaching but I had to take some time to reflect on the opportunity that has manifested not only in my life, but in the lives of the inmates of the Norfolk City Jail as well. I had to take time to feel, see, and embrace my true dharma (purpose).
Our first class was only supposed to have 10 inmates but since the word spread through the jail, more became interested therefore we added more. So, I ended up with twelve inmates, none of whom knew what yoga was. For a few of them, it took some time to settle in to the postures and be receptive to their own bodies, but by the end of class we were chanting OM together as one Sangha(community),and they did not want to leave.
At first, I felt a bit nervous, but it was not the nervousness of teaching in a jail setting. It was the nervousness of teaching that very first class and the hopes that the students would like this thing called "Yoga" that they never experienced before. Yes, it is true, teaching in jail or prison is nothing like teaching in a studio, or a gym, or anywhere that doesn't have bars and cold security doors. But, before we closed out the class, I asked each student to express their practice in one word. Some said, tired, relaxed, grateful, thankful, sleepy, humble, and more. But, one student expressed he felt at peace. That's when I knew that this journey that was unfolding before me was the right journey.
I know that my service there is not to fix them, because they are not broken. I am not there to help as they are not inferior to me. I am there to serve them in their wholeness of who they are, to find their fullest potential through this thing called Yoga. The best words to describe this is through the messages of Mother Theresa... " We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy."

~ When you serve, you see life as whole. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. ~ R. N. Remen

P.S. I don't have any pictures to show as I am not allowed to bring anything in the jail except my mat, book, and my compassionate soul. Namaste'
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A week from today, I will be teaching the first male students in the Virginia Community Yoga Jail Project. As news of the project spread throughout the jail, many inmates have expressed their interest and more have signed up. The director of the jail programs has called this class "Balancing your Life"! Thank you all for your support!!!
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$1,445 of $2,500 goal

Raised by 30 people in 14 months
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