So it all started one random day I was sitting with my good friend, and my first yoga student (or should I say guinea pig!) talking as usual about how yoga has helped me so much. But I felt that I needed to share yoga with people who really can’t afford to go to classes and also people who would really benefit from practicing…in conversation the idea of the central prison for women in Karachi came up…my friend asked would I be ok with going to a place like that?
Immediately I had a flashback of my first visit to Sojourn House in Toronto. A rehabilitation shelter for homeless men with addictions. After going there not once but many times I didn’t think any place could intimidate me!
Ofcourse I said, though a part of me was nervous – was I ready to do this? Did I even know what kind of Yoga to do? I thought it would take months before the actual logistics would work out, but to my surprise after my first contact with the retired Judge (who runs the legal aid office adjacent to the women’s and young men’s jail) I started classes exactly 1 week later. This was now, hard to believe, 8 months a go!
I did not know what to expect and really did not have a lot of time to prepare but I knew that I just had to let it all happen organically and from my heart. There were close to 80 women, 20 children, half Pakistani, half foreign. My first class was a circus with 20 women in it, and about 30 watching. The kids who could walk and talk were excitedly running around! Women who were watching, passed comments, talked, and made lots of noise. But thanks to the wagon full of social work group skills I had learned I knew that this was just a test. And in the end I knew I had passed with my broken Urdu and all:)
Weeks and months have gone by and now these women and their children have become a part of my life. A part of the answer which I was so desperately searching for. And every week they give me something to smile about, a new story to share, and a new lesson to learn, while giving me a consistent dose of inspiration. Amazingly though every person I have come into contact with at the jail has repeatedly asked me the SAME question: Hum paiyt kasay kum karsak te hain?? (How do I get rid of the flab on my stomach?) Ha ha!
This week a new student joined the class and she almost did the crow on the first try! Its interesting to see the change just in the first hour and I’ve sort of developed a sense for those who will continue with the practice and those who won’t. From being a little tough, self-conscious, at times even half joking, the women who join become soft, vulnerable, strong, and hopeful by the end of class. It’s not always easy I have to confess. Feel like the outpouring comes from so many women for so many things that as one person I can’t fulfill. So if you are inspired, and want to give something, remember these women at the jail. You can even donate a yoga mat its only 675 rs (around $7.50).