“This is truly one of the best experiences of my life. I truly look forward to coming every week.”
~ Participant, Deschutes County Jail Yoga Class
As conflict, natural disasters, and other tragedies occur across our world, it’s common to experience moments, or even longer cycles, of feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, or that no small actions we might take in our own lives could ever have any meaningful impact on whatever it is we wish we could influence, transform, change, or heal.
Similarly, at times, in following news coverage of big global stories, for example, it’s easy to forget there are individuals, families, groups, and communities right here in our local neighborhoods, town, and region who are in need of support, services, advocacy, and allies – and that actions, donations, and service hours contributed at a local level can have immediate, powerful impacts. And at least sometimes, can have impacts we are fortunate enough to have opportunities to hear about, see, and bear witness to.
This is a story of some of those immediate impacts from right here in our community.
Last month, we highlighted experiences, reflections, and perspectives of two of the Namaspa Foundation teachers – one who teaches yoga and mindfulness at Deschutes County Jail and one who teaches in local addiction recovery programs.
This month, we are highlighting experiences of participants in the Namaspa Foundation’s classes, which are offered to diverse individuals across our community. As of October 1, 2023, the Namaspa Foundation has offered over 1,527 classes – and reached over 10,101 students – not only at Deschutes County Jail (classes for both those experiencing incarceration, as well as jail employees) and in addiction recovery programs, but also in schools; the juvenile detention center; homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters; affordable housing developments; retirement centers, and for veterans and their families. We have also had 340 free 6-week “Fresh Start” in-studio yoga passes redeemed (offered to eligible individuals in our community, including folks in recovery, folks returning home after being in jail, and folks receiving services from local homeless and/or domestic violence shelters). Lastly, 36 graduates of our 200-hour “True U” Yoga Teacher Training Training Program have been awarded BIPOC or financial aid scholarships.
In line with the mission and vision of the Namaspa Foundation, the individuals who are participating in these yoga and mindfulness classes offered in various locations across our community are often those who otherwise lack access to things like yoga and mindfulness classes, but who benefit tremendously when given opportunities to experience them.
As a part of our long-term relationships with and commitments to the sites, locations, and individuals who the Foundation serves through its classes, all of the below testimonials and quotes have been kept anonymous and include no identifying details of those who have shared them with our teachers. There are reflections from a wide range of ages and from three of the community locations where Foundation classes are offered: Deschutes County Jail, schools, and addiction recovery programs.
The reflections we’ve received from class participants are aligned with the current and expanding research on the impacts and benefits of yoga and mindfulness in general, and in particular, for individuals and groups who have experienced trauma, who are in the midst of tremendous hardship in their lives, and/or who are a part of traditionally and systemically underserved and/or oppressed groups or communities.
When asked how yoga and mindfulness classes with the Namaspa Foundation have helped participants feel different in their bodies, many highlight decreased tension; decreased pain; increased strength and flexibility; increased physical relaxation; and increased overall wellbeing. One participant shares: “I felt unburdened and present in my body. I experienced the sensation of relaxation.” Another says: “Going to yoga has helped me to be aware of the tension I carry in my body here in jail. I always feel more relaxed, limber, stronger, and lighter after yoga.” Many participants also report having more energy after participating in the classes.
Emotional & Mental Health Benefits:
When asked how yoga and mindfulness classes with the Namaspa Foundation have helped participants feel different in their minds, or how they feel the classes support their emotional and mental health, many highlight: decreased worry, stress, and anxiety; greater clarity; increased calmness and peace; fewer thoughts; and an ability to let go of challenging emotions (e.g., frustration) and to enter a different attitude or mindset (e.g., one that is more positive or connected with more possibility). One participant notes: “The mental benefits of the yoga we get are invaluable. It’s by far the best thing I do for my mental health in jail.” Another shares that the classes are “teaching me successful ways of dealing with daily stress and anxiety and [I’m experiencing] small amounts of peace of mind.” One reports feeling “self love and healing” during and after the classes. Many participants also share about the power and significance of mindful breathing and other breath practices offered during the classes.
Sense of Empowerment:
When asked how yoga and mindfulness classes with the Namaspa Foundation have helped or are helping participants in their lives, many highlight the significance of getting to learn about and try something new/different/challenging in a safe, supportive, and non-judgemental environment and container, and the confidence it builds during and after doing it. Others share about the experience of being reminded they have choice, agency, and power with regard to their health, current circumstances, choices, and lives. Participants share the classes: “inspire change, hope, and motivation;” “remind me I am in control of myself”; help me feel “more at ease with my situation.”
Connection With & Gratitude For Others
Whether participants are navigating life as a student, are engaged in a part-time or full-time addiction recovery treatment program, or are currently incarcerated, the theme of feeling connected with other participants in class and the Foundation instructors is woven throughout the reflections we’ve received. Participants use words like “brotherhood and sisterhood,” “camaraderie,” and “a sense of belonging,” and about 75% of participants shared, as a part of their reflections, either gratitude in general for the classes, and/or gratitude, in particular, for their teacher(s). About the Namaspa Foundation teachers, participants say things like: “[the teacher’s] presence feels wholesome, compassionate, and grounding – she is a great teacher and always shows up for us.” And, “I truly appreciate and enjoy the instructor and classes. He makes me feel good about myself and what I’m doing in yoga.” And, “I would like to thank the instructor for taking the time to help those who normally wouldn’t have access to something like a yoga class.”
These summarized categories of benefits, along with the specific quotes from participants, encapsulate and provide a snapshot of the impacts the Namaspa Foundation classes are making in our community. It is clear that across the sites, settings, and demographics of individuals, the Foundation’s weekly classes are beneficial, powerful, impactful, transformative, greatly appreciated – and most importantly, are a part of improving and changing lives.
As we said last month, we acknowledge that the end of the year is a time when many of you will receive asks from incredible organizations making a big difference in our community and beyond. We appreciate so very much and so very deeply any amount you feel inspired to give to support us in continuing to steward and forward the mission and vision of the Namaspa Foundation.
If you’d like to make a one-time donation, or become a monthly contributor, visit the Foundation website here.
If you’re interested in becoming involved with the Foundation’s activities in other ways – like by hosting a fundraiser, or becoming a corporate sponsor – learn more and get in touch with us here.
Thank you for reading and bearing witness to the experiences and reflections of the participants in the Namaspa Foundation classes – and through this, for expanding your understanding of the mission, vision, and impacts of the Namaspa Foundation. In whatever ways you feel most inspired, we hope you take the time and opportunity to feel, know, and act on the power you have as an individual to create significant ripples of change right here in our community.