BOISE -- Yoga is a practice that helps millions throughout the world through physical, spiritual and mental discipline and is now bringing mindfulness to an unlikely group of people, helping them transcend their barriers.
KTVB went inside the Pre-Release Center (PRC) at the South Idaho Correctional Institution (SICI) on Monday to see how a local yoga studio is bringing some release to those almost up for release.
Once a week for eight weeks, women living at the PRC and South Boise Women's Correctional Center (SBWCC) have the option to take this class. Every single class in every cycle is full, and inmates say it's the highlight of their week - and of their time behind bars.
While their space is not your typical yoga studio, and the ladies aren't clothed in your typical yogi attire, it's still the same practice with the same mindfulness, meditation and intention.
"For me it's been really hard to process what I've been through and it's been something I just kind of shun. And what this did was bring awareness to it and help me to release it, release the negative energy," PRC inmate Bonnie Droh said. "[It] opened up kind of a doorway for freedoms. I feel very spiritually free."
Women in the PRC at SICI and at SBWCC now have access to this meditative yoga and say they feel empowered with the ability to go beyond the confines of their surroundings to heal and grow.
"It's like a little bit of an escape from our surroundings," PRC inmate Ashly Hankins told KTVB, "you don't really feel like you're in prison at all."
Jenn Crawford and her sister own Zen Riot Yoga & Wellness Studio in Boise and wanted to give back to those in our community who are marginalized or undervalued.
"We thought it would be great to take it out even to populations that couldn't come to our studio. And working with these women is just incredible," Jenn Crawford said. "There's a reason that they're here, there's a reason that we're all here. There's a reason that they're in this position... It's our mission - our guiding light - to bring awareness, self-love, self-care to every person and to women in particular."
With the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to access yoga, Jenn and her sister started this program with IDOC about a year ago.
"You lose a lot of freedom and identity when you come into a facility like this," Crawford added. "I think the most amazing thing I hear is that it makes me feel human."
For inmates with built-up tensions or trauma, the practice provides them some release as it helps to re-shape their lives and their outlooks.
"It's been amazing emotional release for traumas trapped in my body, It's given me a lot of insight and help to know that there's resources and there's outlets," Hankins said. "I've seen a huge turn-around. There's just an amazing, immense amount of love for myself and for the universe in general."
"This class so far has helped me because it's more of a healing class," Droh added. "This has been extremely important."
A focus on rehabilitation to help reduce recidivism, yoga gives these inmates the resources and tools to help them get out and stay out of prison.
"I did make the mistakes to get myself here. But it's a blessing to be able to be in this atmosphere and given the opportunity to do yoga and practice just going within," Hankins added.
"My hope is that when they are released - because they will be soon - is that they can go out into our community and take that self-love, self-care, self-awareness not only for themselves but also for others," Crawford said.
Jenn volunteers her time and resources through the prisons' religious activity departments. As far as she and IDOC staff we spoke with are aware, her yoga program is the only one of its kind in the Idaho Department of Correction.
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