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A Series of Poses for Fitness, Inside and Out (Published 2013) – The New York Times

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RICHMOND, Va. — Three times a week, Robbie Norris, a lean, 50-year-old yoga teacher, hops into his blue 1992 Volvo station wagon with his yoga mat and heads to his class in a drab brick building.
He barely glances at the barbed wire as he strides through the metal detector. He exchanges his driver’s license for a visitor’s pass, navigates a labyrinth of hallways, security guards and the buzzing and clanking of gates, and makes his way to a windowless room.
A dozen women, scarred, tattooed and in blue and yellow jumpsuits, are waiting, splayed on donated yoga mats under harsh halogen lights.
“What’s up, Robbie?” said Kim Alexander, 31, an inmate at the Richmond City Jail who is charged with violating her probation and is in addiction treatment, as she reached out to touch her toes. In minutes, the other women, whose crimes include embezzlement and parole violations, were inhaling, exhaling and deep into a series of vinyasa and warrior poses, with only the clank of the guard’s keys outside to disturb them.
The ancient art of yoga, a physical, spiritual and mental practice whose benefits have been promoted as improving relaxation, has found an unlikely home: prisons.
When many states have cut their wellness and education programs for inmates, citing cost and political pressure, some wardens looking for a low-cost, low-risk way for inmates to reflect on their crimes, improve their fitness and cope with the stress of overcrowded prison life are turning toward yoga.
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