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Scream to exhale – Spanish Yoga instructor tells jail inmates


Scream to exhale – Spanish Yoga instructor tells jail inmatesJune 8, 2023<br>Most were apprehensive, the guards tensed up. But they finally screamed — at the top of their voices. After a few minutes of doing that, many started wailing, some laughed hard. And that was the point Marta Ramirez knew she had ‘touched’ them.Every Saturday, Chandigarh-based Ramirez, originally from Spain, takes time off from her restaurant and pizzeria to go to Model Jail (Burail jail) in the city and teach Yoga to women inmates voluntarily. She may not be able to completely decipher what the inmates say, but the yoga teacher feels in many moments, words and language become redundant. Back in 2022, it took her six months and paperwork to get permission to start the classes in the jail. For someone who moved to India in 2002 to work with Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, she calls meeting her yoga teacher in Manali an act of faith. And it was in his class that she met her husband too, and finally settled in Chandigarh.The first day at the Model Jail was about meeting women who were extremely suspicious. “Many thought I was an undercover cop. What is this foreigner doing here? Why does she want us to learn yoga,” Marta, whose mother worked with jail inmates in Barcelona smiles.And it was on the first day itself that Ramirez, a qualified yoga teacher from different institutes in the country and abroad realised that the techniques she used in the outside world will not work here. She remembers feeling an invisible barrier between the inmate and her. “How do you break that? How do you ensure that these women who have been through so much, trust you enough to get on the path of healing?”Ramirez remembers many would just jump if she touched their ankles. Perhaps ‘touch’ brought back many memories.Out of the more than 50 inmates, only a few approached her. In the course of time, some more joined the group, but there were always those who would look from a distance. For some, healing always remains a distant mirage.”There are several techniques, and breathwork that facilitates the release of emotions. I am not looking at making their bodies flexible. The aim is to allow them to contact an inner part which they think has left them.”Now many inmates look forward to her visits, and not just for Yoga. There are long conversations, and she feels nothing is lost in translation. Some tell her they would not be in jail “next Saturday”. Ramirez knows captivity can make time go in circles. Those inmates are still there, every time. “I never ask them why they are here. The focus is on what they will do when they are out. The whole effort is directed towards the fact that the time they have in jail is an ‘opportunity’ to release bruised emotions.”And yes, now that she has been allowed to bring an audio speaker inside, the inmates are learning Salsa and the instructor – Indian dance moves. “Well, I am getting better every week.”She talks about the trauma stored in the bodies of those who have acted against the law – either for survival or intentionally. “Most are still waiting for bail and many do not even know if they will be released. They are curious about things, they are open to talking about everything. Maybe, the Yoga class is also an excuse to speak to a neutral party who will not judge them. And for the children who live with inmates there, who join us for chanting, it can be an adventure.”Ramirez has also been approached to teach Yoga to police personnel there and male inmates too. “I do not know when or if that would happen. But I am glad that I have been able to give a chance to some people to exhale,” she concludes.(Sukant Deepak can be reached at sukan[email protected])<br> <br>–IANS<br>sukant/sha

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