First day of the TTC in prison: sparking the light

We just finished the first 10-day intensive session of the Yoga Teachers Training Course (TTC) that we are holding in a correctional institution.

It is an amazing human experience on many levels! For 10 days, our team of 6 trainers left the ashram at dawn to spend the entire day – from 6:30am to 7:30pm – teaching in the prison.

The first day, we were both excited and nervous – wondering how it would go.

We welcomed our new trainees into a once cold prison gym that we helped metamorphosed into a temple, complete with an altar including pictures of our teachers Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda, fresh flowers and candles. We sat altogether on the floor for a group meditation followed by the chanting.

These first minutes were intense; as Srinivasan, the ashram’s director, started chanting ‘Jaya Ganesha‘ I suddenly remembered my own TTC 18 months ago in India. It felt completely surreal. I started chanting back as loud as I could, trying to both lift the energy up and channel my own emotion.

As in the classic Sivananda TTC, the course officially started with the initiation of the students by the teacher, passing on the knowledge along the lineage or ‘guru parampara‘. The trainees were called one by one to prostrate in front of the altar, receive powders[1] on their forehead and be given a uniform. As they came back to sit in their yellow and white uniform, the room suddenly light up, the 16 tough-looking inmates turned into new TTC students.

One after the other, they stood up and shared their motivations for taking the course: some had already been on a spiritual path for sometime, others were new to yoga; some desired to teach, others wanted to deepen their own practice; but all of them expressed their deep need for inner peace.

I would be happy to give to others what has been given to me.” – An inmate from FCI Otisville

[1] Ash, sandalwood paste, kumkum