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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Prison yoga offers inmates 90-minute pursuits of inner peace

The Tribune Each week, Zack Pasillas hops behind the wheel of his car and drives off to seek the pleasure and satisfaction of teaching yoga to a group of adults he’s identified as his very “best students.”

Never mind that to reach them Pasillas must pass through barred, locked metal gates and several uniformed security inspectors demanding duplicate IDs. Never mind that he must cross a dismal, barren yard devoid of greenery, toward the building called C Facility, erected with all the architectural finesse of a massive, Third World concrete box.

Never mind that his prize pupils are a captive audience. Literally.

This is yoga class California State Prison, Sacramento-style, with thin blue yoga mats and scratchy gray woolen blankets set out in rows to accommodate perhaps 20 students at a time. A prominent sign at the head of the gymnasium says: “WARNING: No warning shots will be fired in this area. Warden.” The gym once brimmed with inmates and stacked bunks, with barely room to mingle. But prison-overcrowding regulations took care of that, and the cavernous room is now back to being a recreation hall.

Pasillas, 35, couldn’t feel more fulfilled than when he’s at the prison. Dressed all in black, he was accompanying yoga instructor Iwona, a Polish-born, British-accented teacher who would narrate and lead the inmates in a rigorous program of physically challenging poses. Pasillas was to stay by her side, demonstrating the poses at the front of the class. continue reading...

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