In yoga classes, we are encouraged to take the lessons learned from practicing the asanas (poses) and apply them to everyday life. This can mean incorporating ideas from the Yoga Sutras such as ahimsa (non-violence) to practicing patience. But literally incorporating yoga’s physical practice outside of the studio can be done and have a profound effect, and a judge in Florida is doing just that.
Yoga in Stressful Environments
Eleni Derke, Florida Judge and Yoga Instructor, holds free yoga classes on the courthouse lawn, for trials that go on and on, she “orders a break and leads jurors in standing stretches and breathing exercises”, offenders can reduce their sentence by taking weekly classes offered by Yoga 4 Change. The program seems to work and at least two more county judges have followed suit.
The westernization of yoga is sometimes criticized for being too focused on the physical aspect of yoga, but a little yoga is better than nothing. It would be wonderful if more people delve into the philosophical aspect of the practice, but a deep breath and a stretch here and there, that’s a good start.
Yoga 4 Change is a non-profit organization that brings yoga to underserved communities such as vulnerable youth, veterans, incarcerated individuals, those struggling with addiction or who have experienced trauma. They conduct research on the benefits of yoga on individuals by collecting blood pressure and heart rate data.
A Look Back
As a former college teacher, I can’t help but look back and think of how incorporating some yoga in my classes, as Judge Derke has in her courtroom, would have affected my students. Would it have given them more energy, allow them to concentrate more? There is also the fear that a student complains that I’m incorporating my own spiritual beliefs in the classroom. Conducting more scientific research on the health benefits of yoga will surely address this concern.