Neva Ingalls is a certified yoga therapist with Yoga Alliance and director of Inner DomainYoga teacher training program. Neva is a 55-year-old mother with thirty years of experience in dance as a healing art, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Vinyasa, Raja and Tantra Yoga. She has taught in Europe and the United States. Her classes teach students to find a balance of strength, vitality, surrender and flow that can be carried from the mat into all aspects of life.
Neva wrote this blog to share her first-hand experience of the benefits prison inmates derive from their Peace Education Classes at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Maryland.
I was fortunate to hear Prem Rawat speak recently at the Warner Theater in Washington DC in July of 2012. The DVD portraying the Peace Education Program being implemented in prisons across the country, particularly the facility in San Antonio, Texas, moved me deeply.
Seeing and hearing these men express hope and a positive vision for the future based on what they understood from listening to Prem Rawat struck me powerfully. I realized that Prem Rawat’s message of the possibility of inner peace was an important message to share with people in any environment.
Shortly after the Washington DC event, I was invited to observe a Hatha yoga (physical yoga practice) at the MCCF in Maryland. An esteemed colleague of mine has taught the class on a voluntary basis for over 15 years. She teaches a group of men and women (separately) who have addiction issues.
I accepted the invitation, seeing it as an opportunity to explore the possibility of introducing Prem Rawat’s message at the prison. I lent a DVD of one of Prem Rawat’s public addresses to my yoga colleague and told her about the success of the Peace Education Program in reaching and helping prisoners around the country in a very tangible way.
My friend said that she did not feel a connection with Prem Rawat, so I dropped the idea and accompanied her anyway, slightly discouraged, but still hoping I could help in some way.
We arrived and guards escorted us through security and long corridors of automatically locking steel doors. Quite intimidating! The young women I encountered that day seemed listless but committed to being at my friend’s yoga class.
My friend introduced me as a guest teacher observing the class. She began with an overview of yoga philosophy. Although, many Hatha yoga classes taught today focus primarily on the physical body, my friend received her training from respected teachers in India years ago. She emphasizes the core teaching of finding a stillness that is sacred within.
Shortly after the class began, one of the students raised her hand and asked if we knew of Prem Rawat! Three or four others joined in enthusiastically, wanting to know if we’d heard of him. Imagine my surprise, elation and slight chagrin, because, of course it became clear to me that Prem Rawat’s message had already been introduced at this facility. I was very happy to realize this after my initial embarrassment!
My friend told the girls that I was a long time student of Prem Rawat. They wanted to know all about my relationship with him.
I described my introduction to Prem Rawat in 1975, and explained how his message of peace has profoundly affected my life in a positive way. The women were so excited! The energy in the room was so significantly altered and full of light, laughter and joy. It was amazing to see the transformation from the listless inmates I first encountered to these young women bubbling with joy and hope. Two or three students declared the first thing they planned to do upon their release was to go and see him in person.
One girl said, “After hearing him, there is no going back!”
I have to say that for me, seeing this example of transformation first-hand made this whole experience of going to the prison one of hope, joy and gratitude. I felt there was a reason I went, beyond observing my friend teach.
Once again, Prem Rawat touched my life in a deeply personal way. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to him for his determination to bring his message of peace to me and anyone else who wants to listen. I am thrilled that Chris Taney and the Maryland PEP team took the initiative to establish PEP at the MCCF.