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First yoga teacher training “behind bars” graduates 11 women



TOWSON, MD — Whitney Ingram found yoga in prison when she was incarcerated at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCI-W) from 2007 to 2009. The practice had such an impact on her that when she was released she became a Yoga teacher.

“That’s what yoga is, it’s meant to stir something up in you that makes you question something within yourself. That’s really where any goodness can come from, taking that one single solid step,” said Ingram.

The experience had such an impact on her that she recently voluntarily returned to prison to witness a first: For the first time, 11 women offenders at the women’s facility in Jessup are being called “Teacher.” They are now certified yoga instructors.

The program began 18 months ago through the Prison Yoga Project, and was facilitated completely by volunteers Kath Meadows and Donna Querido.

According to Meadows: “These women are pioneers… Not only have they accomplished their own personal goals, but they have forged a path for others to follow. As a direct result of the courage and strength and dedication of these women, there are already teacher training programs that have started in other correctional facilities across the country.”

If you’ve ever visited or been a resident in a correctional facility, you might agree that there is a need for the peace, compassion and acceptance yoga teaches. Graduates with life sentences may end up teaching other offenders while they serve their time together. Those who are set to be released hope to share what they have learned with students of their own on the outside.

“We come into yoga with very little expectations and we come out full of light… and it’s hard not to want to share that. I’ve been able to witness that here,” said Querido.

To reach their goal, each student studied anatomy, yoga poses, breathing, meditation, the ancient Sanskrit language of yoga, teaching techniques, philosophy, and common injuries and modifications. Most of them walked away with more than the knowledge required for a teaching certificate.

One student remarked, “Today is an ending and it’s also a beginning. For me it’s like a wrapped Christmas present, inside is our health, sound mind and body, the warmth of friends and exciting new future; a step into the future.”

There are hopes to begin another teacher training program at MCI-W in 2018.