Mechanical engineer turned yoga teacher, Chanda Williams teaches a weekly yoga class at San Quentin Prison. Her hope is to help repair the effects of mass incarceration and to provide a path for inmates to understand and heal the traumas they encountered growing up and while in prison. She believes in the “intrinsic goodness in everyone” and that with the willingness and commitment anyone can turn their life around.
Based on Williams’s own family and community experiences with the effects of disenfranchisement and systemic racism in the criminal justice system, she felt compelled to alleviate this suffering in any way she could. She joined the Prison Yoga Project in 2014 and is now a senior teacher and trainer for the non-profit organization.
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Inside Edition recently did a feature on Williams’ karma yoga work at San Quentin Prison with the Prison Yoga Project. In the video, she explains her experiences with teaching the inmates, and how she can see the power of yoga slowly transform their bodies and minds. The video also includes interviews with two inmates and they discuss how the yoga classes have helped them become better people.
The Prison Yoga Project distributes educational materials, helps individuals and organizations in establishing yoga and mindfulness programs, and provides training on how to teach these classes to incarcerated people. Their aim is to promote rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, and improve public safety.
Williams wishes that people on the outside could extend compassion and to see the humanity of these individuals to change the public’s discourse and policy around the prison system. She hopes that her students can return to their communities with a passion for life and a “greater sense of empathy, compassion, and interconnectedness with all beings.”
Watch “Why This Woman Goes to Prison to Teach Yoga” below: