Breaking the cycle of time: AHCC yoga program helps inmates build skills, find relief

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AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. – Alvaro Meza took his first yoga class in spring 2017. The 32 year old’s reasons for trying the ancient physical and mental exercise fall in line with 

“It’s just a great stress reliever,” he said. 

The positions he practices- and struggles with- are the same ones in any standard yoga session. 

“God, [the hardest is] probably one of the Warriors, Warrior II.  Just trying to stay stable, without falling over,” he said. 

To watch Meza practice yoga every Tuesday night would be like watching any yoga class.. anywhere. Except that his classroom is the visiting room at Airway Heights Corrections Center, where Alvaro and his classmates are incarcerated. 

“When we brought yoga in, it was just a natural fit for this institution,” said Mike Rainville, a corrections unit supervisor at AHCC. 

The program started in 2010 at the minimum security unit. It was eventually moved to the main unit and is a popular choice of program among the corrections center’s population. 

The program was first brought to KXLY’s attention in a letter from an inmate at former student of the class. 

He wrote that the “cycle of time grinds by in prison. Prison is like being held captive in the place where one breath ends- and the other has yet begun.” 

The yoga program is one of several offered at AHCC that aims to break cycles, both by offering offenders a distraction from their time behind bars and by allowing them to build on skills that Rainville hopes will help them upon release.  

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