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A Yogi is... a Surprising Perspective from Prison

Updated: Jan 21


This blog post was originally posted on Transformation Yoga Project's blog on December 12, 2016.

According to Wikipedia, a yogi is someone who lives by voluntary ethical precepts called Yamas and Niyamas. These include: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, kindness, compassion, non-hypocrisy, forgiveness, fortitude, moderation, purity, cleanliness, austerity, persistence and perseverance in one's purpose, contentment, acceptance of others and of one's circumstances as they are, optimism for self, generosity, charity, sharing with others.


Wow. This is quite a list, one that is challenging to consistently practice and embrace…. especially with what’s going on in today’s world.


It may come as a surprise to hear these precepts being discussed, debated and ultimately embraced by students participating in Transformation Yoga Project's yoga teacher training program at the maximum security prison SCI Graterford. Understanding these concepts is one thing. Putting them into practical action within an environment lacking human compassion is quite another.


How does one practice non-violence in a violent environment? How does one forgive others when you yourself are not forgiven? Deep stuff. Yet this is all part of doing the inward work to peel away the layers of hurt, trauma, and self-judgement preventing us from returning to our true selves. These 11 men are working hard to directly face and release their demons.


As part of this healing process, the men wrote a poem about being a yogi and becoming warriors for peace. There is an inspiring message for everyone in the deeply personal work they are doing. In my opinion, they are role models for doing the hard work to live as true yogis.


A Yogi is a Warrior because

He faces fear and uncertainty directly

With compassion and without self judgement

He lives in union with mind and body directed by his soul.


A Yogi is a Warrior because

His focus is sharp and true

You breathe into the present moment

Rising up Rooted and Balanced.


A Yogi is a Warrior because

Surrender is not an option

Only surrender to his

True Self is worthy of consideration.


A Yogi is a Warrior because

He doesn't know fea

You do not fear because you do right

Do Right and Fear No One!


A Yogi is a Lover because

He opens to the Real

You let go of illusion

And Feel it, Really Feel!


A Yogi is a Warrior because

He shows compassion

You show compassion because

Your heart is open.


A Yogi is a Warrior because

He protects the weak

You protect the weak because

You have great inner strength.


A Yogi is a Magician because

He sees the Trickster in us all

You work it – on and off the mat

Standing firm and walking tall


A Yogi is a King because

He integrates it all

You sink deep into the mat

Rising up and serving all.

This blog post was originally featured on Transformation Yoga Project's website. To learn more about the organization, go to transformationyogaproject.org.

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