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Women's Prison Trains Inmates -- as Yoga Teachers

Common Ground Healing Arts in Charlottesville is expanding its wellness services beyond the general population.  This year, the non-profit is reaching out to the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women to provide a yoga teacher training program. WMRA’s Marguerite Gallorini reports.

What if yoga could benefit body and mind, even while incarcerated? That’s the experiment made by the non-profit Common Ground Healing Arts in a local women’s prison.  This goes back to 2009, says Marketing and Outreach Director Paige Ryan.

PAIGE RYAN: The goal was to serve about 200 women and to offer about four classes per week.

And this year, they actually have the staffing and resources in place to offer a 200-hour professionally-certified yoga training. That means that inmates can become yoga teachers inside the prison as well as outside once they're released.

SARAH MOSELEY: Now we're offering over seven classes a week; we have five instructors. We're planning to do it over about three months.

Sarah Moseley is a volunteer and one of the lead instructors of this program.

MOSELEY: They've got training Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday nights; and for four to five hours on Saturday. So it's a very rigorous training. We also offer yoga to the segregated populations now, so offering more kind of one-on-one specialty classes.

RYAN: So "segregating" meaning that the person is in isolation?

MOSELEY: Yes. So, what could happen is that a person in segregation would be practicing in their space while you are leading them and practicing alongside them, on the other side of the door. Women will tell us that coming back from solitary or from segregation, they'll tell us about how they've been practicing yoga and how having that yoga practice helped them get through those times.

And on November 3rd, the festival ARTCHO in Charlottesville will be fundraising for Common Ground, which only relies on donations for all of its services, including this yoga teacher training.

RYAN: The partnership started because they reached out to us: they identified with our mission of making healing services affordable and accessible.