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What Does it Mean to Restore?

To restore is a process of reuniting. It is an act that helps to bring back into existence, use, function or position a person, place or thing. Often it means to “return to life.” Similarly, to heal is an act to make someone or something whole. So, the process of healing is highly related to the process of restoring. Both seek to create unity.

The word ‘yoga’ translated from Sanskrit to English is often translated as “union.”

A practitioner of yoga explores connection to the many layers of their being including: their body, mind, breath, emotions, and energy. Deeply rooted in the practice is mindfulness, which is paying attention on purpose, without judgment but with compassion. Through this realization of our many layers of being, how they influence one another and our increasing acceptance of the moment, harmony is practiced. And it is a practice. There are good days and bad days, success and celebrations and losses and hardships. But they don’t have to make us any less whole. Life is always an ebb and flow. Change is always occurring.

The criminal justice system claims to be a rehabilitative one. Implicit in calling it “rehabilitative” is the idea that it is supposed to help to restore the individuals who have made a mistake and were subjected to the penalty of law as a consequence of their actions. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections mission is, in fact, to reduce criminogenic behaviors by providing individualized treatment and education to result in reintegration through accountability and positive change. Unfortunately, recidivism rates suggest that prisons don’t work. Within three years of release, about two-thirds of individuals who are released from prison will return. Clearly, the current method is ineffective.

TYP is one of many organizations actively seeking to change the narrative of what are restorative practices within correctional facilitates and throughout the justice system.

By providing trauma-sensitive yoga classes on the inside, we create an opportunity for individuals to find connection to their entire selves by exploring breath-centered movement and mindfulness activities. Our 200-hour Yoga Teacher Trainings (YTT) are a unique opportunity for individuals who are incarcerated to be able to gain a skill set that enables them to understand  and integrate the philosophy of yoga into their own lives and to facilitate classes with their peers. I’d argue it is healing process.

In fact, previous graduates of our YTT programs have described their experience in a truly transformative way:

This poem was written by a graduate of our very first Yoga Teacher Training at State Correctional Institute - Graterford. He is now a co-facilitator of our current training at SCI - Phoenix.

This poem was written by a graduate of our very first Yoga Teacher Training at State Correctional Institute - Graterford. He is now a co-facilitator of our current training at SCI - Phoenix.

We like to think of our work in the lines of healing justice, transformative justice or even restorative justice.  These frameworks believe in equality. They believe in people’s inherent goodness, recognizing that sometimes mistakes or bad things happen, but that does not make us any less whole or any less human.

I wanted to share a little more information on each of these frameworks that envision justice to be that much more… more healing, more transformative, more restorative….


Restorative Justice

There is an adage - “Hurt people, hurt people. Healed people, heal others too.” Restorative justice seeks to break the cycle of violence by focusing on tools that help the individual heal and rehabilitate. It recognizes that although people often think of prisons as impenetrable, totally removed from us; the individuals who are incarcerated are still someone’s parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, spouse, leader, role model and so on. Even if there is physical separation, connection, and especially ideology, knows no boundaries.

Restorative justice looks at the big picture of crime and sees it as a breakdown of society and human relationships. It then seeks to heal these broken relationships through conversation and community involvement and support. TYP practices restorative justice by creating an environment of respect, transparency and accountability. We invite people to discover how they can reunite what has been divided in their lives through the practice.

Healing Justice

Healing justice also seeks to create wholeness. But it does so by recognizing the impact intergenerational trauma and current structures of oppression had on creating rifts that cause disharmony. Healing justice seeks to reimagine the process of becoming whole through a generative and co-created future.

Healing Justice recognizes that trauma, violence and oppression live on and through the body and can limit their experience, connection, and choice. Trauma-sensitive yoga is a way to become increasingly aware of the body and sensations and to also practice making supportive choices. Healing justice also allows for a place to practice care with each other that we each deserve. Yoga and mindfulness allow us an opportunity to develop and strengthen compassion self and for others.

Transformative Justice

Transformative Justice is often seen as peacemaking. It is concerned with root causes of oppression by systems of dominance. It asks that everyone and everything change. We are all involved in a complex relationship that is currently disharmonious. Through connection and community building we can transform.  A critical dialogue needs to be undertaken collectively about responsibility, accountability and initiatives to heal.

As our name, Transformation Yoga Project, suggests, we believe that everyone is able to transform themselves.  Because, our individual actions never happen in isolation how we personally transform, heal, or become whole can create a ripple effect.  When this is done positively, it manifests change and transformation throughout.

If you feel like you have learned something about healing and transformation, then please consider supporting our current Training to Transform Justice on Start Some Good.

Your pledge will support 25 men in their own yoga journey, as they work to create connection and restoration in their own communities.

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Meet Eli

Eli Goodrich is a part of our 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) at Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute - Phoenix. He is also a Certified Peer Specialist on the Residential Treatment Unit in the prison’s Mental Health Block. We hope Eli will find his training helpful in incorporating yoga and mindfulness into the incredible work he does on the Residential Treatment Unit.

Eli is also a member of the Restorative Justice Alumni. In addition to studying yoga, Eli is also busy preparing to playing the part of Lady Macbeth in their upcoming production of Macbeth at SCI - Phoenix in June.

In order to connect to bridging the wall between those who are incarcerated and you all, Eli agreed to anser some questions.

Eli’s favorite quote is this one from Ghandi. Personal transformation creates a ripple effect into the larger world.

Eli’s favorite quote is this one from Ghandi. Personal transformation creates a ripple effect into the larger world.

Here is what he had to say -

What inspires you?

Sincerity, service, challenging the ego, resilience and self-awareness.

What do you hope to inspire in others?

Resilience, authenticity, courage to be vulnerable, the value of finding and connecting with your true self.

What would you like to share with the larger community?

That we inmates are not “the other.” We are individuals with stories and experiences. Just as we are not definied by the best thing we’ve ever done we are not defined by the worst.

What would you like to share with younger folks?

Develop coping skills for stress early. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, not everyone is going to like you and that’s ok.

How has community shown up for you?

Besides our amazing and talented TYP volunteers, I’ve always been amazed by how many people offer themselves, to help prisoners - volunteers, staff, psych, and security.

How have you shown up for your community?

I believe in the value stewardship. We have an obligation to God and man to make the most of our talents and abilities in the service to ourselves and others.

What if anything has YTT added to your sense of community?

I find comfort and support knowing that there are men who want to find another way to be in the world outside of our aggression, ego and confrontation and fear.

Learn more about our Yoga Teacher Training on StartSomeGood. If you feel connected, or compelled, to support the individuals as they become certified yoga teachers, please make a pledge! A ripple effect of transformation happens when we realize were all connected and can share in healing.

VISIT OUR CROWDFUNDING PAGE ON STARTSOMEGOOD. HELP US RAISE $10,000 TO COVER THE BAREBONES COST OF YTT. Thank you!!

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Meet Shakur

Shakur is an active and valued member of our community. He is a part of our Yoga Teacher Training at State Correctional Institute - Phoenix, where he is exploring how yoga and mindfulness can create joy and ease in his life and others.

He’s also invovled with four other orgnaizations that seek to build bridges that overcome the walls of prisons. He’s a true believer in the importance of support, whether it is through engaging youth, to preparing peers for the reentry process, to coordinating volunteers with the community within.

Here’s what Shakur had to share with us -

This is Shakur’s favorite motto. Words that he lives by and embodies. His loyalty to his community is felt and his desire to positively support makes an impact.

This is Shakur’s favorite motto. Words that he lives by and embodies. His loyalty to his community is felt and his desire to positively support makes an impact.

What groups/organizations are you involved with?

  • NAACP - Phoenix brach.

  • Real Street Talk - talking to at-risk youth about how to change their understanding concerning the culture of street crime. The ideology is to direct their behavior towards positive outcomes - with a focus on entrepreneurial success.

  • People Advancing Reintegration (PAR) - to reduce recidivism through (PHX) pre-eminent systematic reintegration process. Our innovative course is designed and led by qualified incarcerated citizens and dedicated volunteers. We advance our graduates successful re-entry into society by providing reliable community support as a standard PAR practice.

  • Resident Volunteer Corps (WFG) - our mission is to formalize and professionalize the volunteer effort. Our ethos is to work for good by engaging with others in concerning, helpful, respectful and genuine ways.

What inspires you?

Learning at least one thing each day to make me happy and others around me happy. Sometimes just a smile can make a difference in our lives.

What do you hope to inspire in others?

To look at each day as an experience of joy and happiness, and share these same feelings of joviality with others.

What would you like to share with the larger community?

That we survive through each others social cooperation of communal understanding of responsibilities, values, and morality.

What would you like to share with the younger folks?

History is a reflection of events that help us understand were we are now, and realization of our path leading into the future.

How has community shown up for you?

Given me a strong sense of values and moral principles to guide me through the course of life. No matter what path I chose to take - those were my choices - but the principles instilled in me from my community are ingrained for life.

How have you shown up for your community?

By not wavering in their principles in guiding each generation with the same values and moral as they gave me.

What, if anything, has YTT added to your sense of community?

It would be more appropriate to say; we work in a communal gathering to share experiences of comfort and ease from an ancient practice to help those achieve a sense of purpose of joy within the practice of spiritual, mindfulness and physical therapy.

Learn more about our Yoga Teacher Training on StartSomeGood. If you feel connected, or compelled, to support the individuals as they become certified yoga teachers, please make a pledge! A ripple effect of transformation happens when we realize were all connected and can share in healing.

VISIT OUR CROWDFUNDING PAGE ON STARTSOMEGOOD. HELP US RAISE $10,000 TO COVER THE BAREBONES COST OF YTT.

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Meet Stan Rosenthal

Stan Rosenthal is a part of our 200 - hour Yoga Teacher Training at State Correctional Institute - Phoenix. In addition, Stan is involved with many other organizations including: Lifers, Inc., National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, LACEO, Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADBI), Decarcerate PA, Inside/Out, Mural Arts, and the Jewish Congregation.

Stan wanted to share and connect with you all, our community, in order to help build a bridge that transcends separation between people who are incarcerated and those on the outside. Here is what Stan had so say -

What inspires you?

Identifying a need and trying to strategize ways to meet that need.

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What would you like to share with the larger community?

Different messages from different communities.

What would you like to share with younger folks?

It is easier to do the right thing while young. Don’t use drugs while your brain is developing. There are natural ways to expand your mind, drugs only inhibit thought & creativity.

How has community shown up for you?

No US citizen navigates life without community involvement. More often than not, if I participate & contribute to a community, they are supporters of my efforts. For example, the Jewish community (that I am a part of) has been volunteering since the days of Eastern Penitentiary (when it was being used actively to incarcerate individuals).

How have you shown up for your community?

I have held office in our Jewish community of and on for 31 years. I have always filled the void when no one volunteered for a task or position. I maintain contact & involvement with the men inside and the volunteers outside.

What if anything has YTT added to your sense of community?

Now that I am forced to be free of administrative tasks I am thankful to be free at the perfect time to participate in the training. I am extremely fortunate to be able to be proactive & learn yoga w/my yoga family: Bri, Colleen, Jim, Frank & Mike.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto?

I’m too free spirited to be guided by a favorite quote or motto. Life is fluid and my favorite quotes/mottos change according to what is happening in my life at that time.

Learn more about our Yoga Teacher Training on StartSomeGood. If you feel connected, or compelled, to support the individuals as they become certified yoga teachers, please make a pledge! A ripple effect of transformation happens when we realize were all connected and can share in healing.

VISIT OUR CROWDFUNDING PAGE ON STARTSOMEGOOD. Help us raise $10,000 to cover the barebones cost of YTT.

Thank you for supporting people who are incarcerated as they learn tools and techniques that can help them transform their lives but also their communities as well! Together, we can all make a difference.


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