Peace to Prison.

Via Krista Katrovas
on Sep 4, 2013
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Jail Cell

I’ve had my relations with prison.

My brother served six years; my ex- brother-in-law served time on and off for a few years.

I visited him each time he went in.

My stepbrother’s son is presently in prison for 15 years.

My ex-step son served time in a work furlough arrangement; I took him a bucket of chicken every weekend for a year (his favorite food, not mine).

My husband’s father served time in and out of the pen, and a friend of mine’s brother is on death row at Pelican Bay.

Surely, not something most yoga teachers talk about during class. Given my connection to prison through others you would think I’d never dream about being in prison, or think of it as a freer place to live than on the outside.

Yet there was a time when I contemplated committing a heinous crime, one that would ultimately land me behind bars, at least for life, with no chance of parole.

It was a long time before I was able to share this dark side of myself because I was deeply ashamed of having these feelings. I was ashamed of meditating on how to poison a banana smoothie, or how to push that certain person off a cliff while walking our dogs.

Out of fear, ignorance, and insecurity, I didn’t think about the simplest solution, to leave. Most abused women don’t.

When those awful thoughts would creep in, and serious contemplations surfaced, I’d return to my yoga mat. I can honestly say not only did yoga save my life, but it also saved the life of another.

I had been watching one of those, “Lock-Up,” shows. The women were laughing and playing backgammon during their social hour, and it seemed they had come to a true state of acceptance and actual peace with one another and their life behind bars.

From my view, the hard times they were experiencing on a day-to-day basis seemed better than my current situation. I fantasized about joining them, about going to prison, becoming really good at backgammon and teaching yoga to the other inmates.

Each time the thought to kill my ex surfaced I grabbed my yoga mat, practiced postures, calmed my mind, centered my awareness on my breath, and eventually arrived comfortably enough for meditation. I’d study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the science of joy, and truly a blueprint to finding peace.

I came to understand one of the yogi’s ten commandments, ahimsa, non-violence, as codified by Patanjali. Every time a dark thought rose, I’d replace it with a happy one.

I began to practice non-violence in my thoughts and replaced my angry ones with compassionate ones.

After each yoga practice, I felt I could breathe again. I grew towards accepting my dark feelings with compassion rather than with judgment. As I witnessed my body changing through the repetition of the practice I came to see how I was also able to control my mind. These changes ultimately led me to understanding, and embracing, the courage it took to leave him, rather than continuing to live in my self-made prison.

There were no bars, I could’ve left anytime I wanted, but it took witnessing the changes my yoga practice had created in my body, mind, and spirit to see that I was free to leave.

Virginia Slims cigarette ad used to say, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” and I have come a long way. I now know that I could never bring harm to another, let alone take another’s life. I know I’ll never kill another person in my mind, as I so often did back then, and yoga taught me how deeply that darkness was for me.

I’m sure there are numerous people in prison feeling such depths of darkness, and even more.

When people say, “Yoga changed my life,” I smile knowing that meditation saved mine. Had I not learned the postures, so that I could sit comfortably long enough to sit with what I was contemplating, I may very well have ended up in the pen.

Meditation, and the study of the Yoga Sutras, knocked sense into my, then, senseless mind. My meditation practice allowed for space to enter in between my thoughts.

I began to respond to life, rather than merely reacting to it.

I would never have thought then that I would actually begin the process to teach yoga in prison. This December I am going for training so that I can teach yoga for those incarcerated. Though this time I will enter as a free person, share all that can be gained from small spaces, through the mind and body, by sitting and being with one’s greatest companion and teacher, the breath.

I’ll enter prison, though not as an inmate, but rather as a civilian wanting nothing more than to bring peace to prison, to people who are locked away, for crimes I just as easily could have committed.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Krista Katrovas

Krista (BA, MFA, E-RYT) has dedicated herself to the practice, study and teaching of yoga since discovering it in 1999 after dancing rigorously as a dance major in college. Krista has had nearly 30 articles on Yoga, Wellness, and Spirituality published in nationally regulated magazines. She has taught Yoga in Prague every July since 2009 and has been sought to teach in Canada, Virginia, Kentucky, and Florida, and more recently, Kuwait (though she declined the generous offer to teach in Kuwait). She calls Kalamazoo, MI home, where she teaches Yoga, Shamanic Yoga, Meditation, and offers Spiritual guidance. This year Krista will be training in the Prison Yoga Project, and will help to bring more yoga to Prisons.


8 Responses to “Peace to Prison.”

  1. Krista says:

    Clarification: My friend's brother sentenced to death is in San Quentin ""condemned row." He served in Pelican Bay before joining Scott Peterson on death row in SQ.

    Blessed Be. Krista

  2. krista says:

    Clarification: My friend's brother sentenced to death is in San Quentin ""condemned row." He served in Pelican Bay before joining Scott Peterson on death row in SQ.

  3. Wow. Powerful story! Glad you found yoga and hurray to you for opening up to all of us about it. I skipped yoga tonight 🙁

  4. krista says:

    Your post made me smile. Thank you, Lynn. I appreciate your post and reading. Sometimes we need to skip yoga. That is also part of the practice, honoring our needs. A very wise Swami told me, everything is yoga, if we bring the same awareness to our breath as when we are practicing yoga, while doing these "other things," other than yoga, we are doing our yoga. So enjoy your night off, with awareness. 🙂 Shine and Bless on, in, and, out.

  5. Carolyn Riker says:

    This is incredible. Thank you for sharing a powerful story. A real story. It gives me so much hope and encouragement.

  6. krista says:

    Thank you, Carolyn. I appreciate your reading and for your inspiration, too.

  7. Janey Maeser says:


    I am so proud of you and your courage to share these ‘dark days’ that I remember your sharing with me long ago. Yes, my sweet Krista, ‘you’ve come a long way, baby’; this just seems to fit with you

    Keep up the good work and the sharing of your love of the art of teaching and practicing Yoga. Love you so much, M..OM

  8. krista says:

    Ah, M…OM, Shucks, Thanks, You are my greatest teacher and heroine. So proud of you, too! Love you so much! Love you, Mama. Soooooo much! xoxo, Krista-bird