Notes from our Programs: One Step at a Time - Juvenile Hall Yoga Class

Lucia Gonzalez, Niroga Yoga Corps Teacher and Program Manager

The young man in our Niroga class is 15 years old and has been in a gang since he was 12. He is scheduled to be transferred to California Youth Authority (CYA) from Juvenile Hall. One of his good friends was recently transferred to CYA and shortly after his arrival was put in the hospital by a rival gang member for two weeks due to a fight that erupted. I have been concerned that when our student arrives at the "Y", he might feel compelled to retaliate in order to defend his friend.

In many conversations with me he had expressed that he would like to change, but really did not believe that he could change his ways and "be good." He has been around gangs much of his life, his older brother is a gang member, and he fears the repercussions, if he tries to leave the gang.

Recently, however, in a letter he wrote "Remember when I told all of you [Niroga teachers] that I didn't think I could do good? Well it turns out that I really can." He then thanked us for our help, appreciating what he had learned in our classes.

For this young man to go from never believing he could make anything of himself and "be good," to realizing, while incarcerated, that it is possible for him to change is a major step in a new direction. This is one of those moments, which comes to light through the practice of yoga and becomes a life-transforming pivotal turning point.

It was heart warming for those of us, who taught him, to read the letter.