Hello! I am one of the sixteen people who are attending a course on yoga in the jail in Milan. The course is directed by a man who comes from outside the prison. His name in the yoga world is Gyanbodha. I would like to explain my situation, which I think is common to many people who have been sent to jail.
I entered jail in January 2015. I was frightened and disoriented. Everything around me, especially the looks of other people caused a deep sense of fear in me. When I was called by the educator and asked what activity I would like to choose among many possibilities, the one I favoured was yoga. I had always heard about it in a positive way, from people who stressed the benefits I could draw from this practice. However, due to my work, I never found time to devote myself to it, so I enrolled in the course.
At last the first day of the course came. It was Thursday! I was surprised to find myself sitting at a table with only two other people, one of whom was a prisoner like me. I immediately listened to the teacher with immense pleasure. He spoke about positivity, love, consciousness, giving from time to time little advices, explaining how to prevent and control particular situations through the control of breath. Thus the first lesson ended, leaving in me the desire for another lesson in which I could do something more.
In the following lessons I introduced myself. I explained that I suffer from a state of anxiety and do not know how to get out of it; I do not want to take tranquillizers, but want to find a natural way to suppress my fears, and control my thoughts and worries. I need help! My request was immediately granted, and I was shown how to breathe in a controlled way, a practice that later, I learned, was called pranayama.
The first teaching is to breathe correctly. This is abdominal breathing, exactly the contrary of what I used to do! I have learnt to listen to my respiration, to breathe slowly, deeply and, I believe, better. The breathing that I used more to balance the left and right brain hemispheres is called nadi shodhana pranayama. I found out about this name by reading the book given by Gyanbodha to the people of my section who attended the course.
Little by little, I realized that my anxieties were gradually disappearing, my thoughts were carefully kept away from the place where I live, and were replaced by the consciousness that no bars can imprison you if you want to be free, even if you are in jail.
What Gyanbodha is doing with us is highly appreciated by everybody. With him we have the possibility to learn always new things, even the asanas we are practising more often are relaxing asanas for the back, given that we sleep on uncomfortable beds, and our backs become rather crooked.
Little by little the other prisoners have seen the benefits that I have reaped from this course. I always try to find positivity even where others cannot find it, and so the group has expanded. We are also given the possibility to practise the exercises in the gymnasium.
I want to consider my life here like a mandala, and try to do the most beautiful and meaningful things I can. When my term in jail ends, perhaps I will understand that everything has been temporary.
I conclude with a “Thank you, Gyanbodha, may your work be an encouragement to other people.”