Live Be Yoga ambassadors Jeremy Falk and Aris Seaberg are on a street journey throughout the nation to share actual speak with grasp academics, discover revolutionary courses, and a lot extra—all to light up what’s in retailer for the way forward for yoga. Follow the tour and get the newest tales @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.
Growing up in Chicago, with a number of the highest homicide charges within the nation, legal violence was an inescapable a part of childhood for Marshawn Feltus. Though road gangs provided the promise of survival, they almost stole his complete life away.
Just earlier than his 18th birthday, an altercation he recollects as “senseless street violence” escalated into a deadly capturing and landed Feltus a 38-year jail sentence at Illinois River Correctional Center. Instead of turning into a tragic statistic within the vicious industrial jail complicated, we discovered Feltus inside Bethel New Life group middle on the West Side of Chicago, educating one his soulful hatha yoga courses to a numerous vary of scholars, and we have been honored to listen to the story of how he obtained there.
Like a lot of males in jail, Feltus spent as a lot time as he might lifting weights. All that started to vary when a new inmate started educating himself yoga by studying books his household despatched him so he might deal with an damage. He was quickly dubbed Buddha and later efficiently petitioned the jail to permit him to show yoga courses. He tried persistently and unsuccessfully to recruit Feltus into this system, however Feltus turned down quite a few invites. “In my mind, it’s just not what dudes did,” he admits. “I thought yoga was for skinny white women, like I thought basketball and football were for the brothers.”
Eventually Buddha wore him down, and Feltus put his weights apart and stepped onto a yoga mat for the primary time. “Honest to God, my first yoga class, I was hooked,” he stated. “We did Eagle arms and I just fell in love right there. If yoga were a woman, I would have married her right there. That’s how great breathing and stretching felt.” Feltus ecstatically shared his expertise with different inmates for weeks till the subsequent class. After he practiced a few extra occasions, Feltus observed his mood had subsided, and he watched himself turn into much less reactive. He even started sleeping by way of the entire night time—a massive deal within the huge home.
When the advantages of yoga began to unfold across the jail, the courses grew in measurement, frequency, and recognition. “It started to gain respect from everybody.” Eventually, Feltus got here to help in educating and operating this system. At its peak, they taught 250 inmates per class, which made up roughly 15-20 % of the inhabitants at Illinois River. Normally, with traction like that, there are sure to be issues; in all the opposite giant courses or occasions, there have been all the time breakout fights or incidents. Yet because the yoga program stored rising, Feltus says they by no means had an incident or points with the inmates, which might have resulted in this system’s termination. “We made sure that among us we had that level of respect.” As true yogis, Feltus proudly recollects, “we were self-regulated.”
When Feltus was launched, he had been in jail for 19 years—longer than he had been alive once we was sentenced. His early-release circumstances stored him on home arrest for a yr, and though he accomplished a variety of self-help packages in jail, discovering a job out on the earth was disheartening. He was turned away from companies regardless of “Help Wanted” indicators hanging of their home windows, an all-too-common story for former inmates looking for their means once more. Eventually he began working odd jobs at a area people middle, however every time he might, he would deliver individuals collectively to apply yoga.
Realizing he had a present and a ardour of inspiring others, Feltus accomplished his 200-hour instructor training at Chicago Yoga Center after which pursued different programs in entrepreneurship and enterprise to deliver his future to life. He quickly launched ACT (Awareness Change Triumph) Yoga, the primary yoga studio within the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, to a grateful viewers of lots of. His influence has since expanded exponentially; he’s now taught at church buildings, schools, elementary faculties, group facilities, prisons, and numerous different packages across the metropolis.
Feltus’ story is proof that jail yoga packages cannot solely create peace inside the jail—theirs was the one program with out violent incident)—however can encourage individuals to show their lives round to reintegrate into society efficiently and be of service to others in profound methods. “Within me there’s forever a smoldering flame for all the atoning and apologies I have to give for the viciousness and vileness of the act that I committed against somebody else. That’s part of why I choose to be a servant,” he says. “That’s why I choose to have as much impact in my community and my life as I possibly can.”
How Yoga Could Transform the Prison System and Communities
As our tour continues to look towards the way forward for yoga, after sitting down with Feltus, it’s clear that jail is a place the place yoga could make an influence after which ripple out super advantages to communities. If you are focused on supporting or educating on this area, take a look at Prison Yoga Project, the place Feltus lately accomplished one other training.
We’re particularly grateful to our sponsors at Nirvana Bars for fueling our journey in order that we’re capable of share this necessary work.