Whitney Ingram, E-RYT 200 RYT 500, has been a yoga practitioner since 2007, and a teacher since 2012. She is a co-teacher for Jala Yoga’s (Shepherdstown) Hatha Yoga 200-hour and 300-hour teacher training, as well as an ambassador for the Prison Yoga Project (PYP)—with a focus on fundraising and advocacy.
It’s the PYP that was the feature of a fundraiser she held last month (July 8)—the ‘Balancing Berry Fundraiser for Prison Yoga Project,’ hosted by Frog Eye Farm Blueberries (Knoxville, Maryland). The donation-supported, all-day event allowed participants to pick blueberries, take a sunset yoga class, and join in a fireside gathering with Bluegrass band The Speakeasy Boys.
Ingram, who lives in Jefferson County, ended up raising $1,222 to help fund the reprinting of a yoga guide available for free to prisoners around the country.
Essentially, the PYP uses yoga as a mindfulness tool for reengaging prisoners with their bodies in order to restore the connection between mind, heart, and body—developing the whole person and increasing sensitivity toward oneself and empathy for others. The hope is that participants will begin to care more about themselves and understand the harm they have caused, as well as more effectively process the wealth of complex traumas many of them have experienced earlier in life, which perhaps landed them in prison.
“I have volunteered for PYP for just over a year, and studied with both James Fox (founder) and Kath Meadows (a volunteer and director of Women Prisoner Initiatives) during the Prison Yoga Project Trauma Informed Yoga Training,” explained Ingram recently.
“I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2007, the same year I began practicing yoga,” she said. “After five years of teaching, with a recent focus on seva (selfless service), I am reminded of first trying yoga with a volunteer teacher, and how that act of kindness has shaped my teaching and forever desire to give back to populations affected by trauma, while furthering my own healing.”
Ingram ended up taking the PYP training, which led to her becoming a co-teacher and facilitator of that training. “We prepare volunteers to go into certain populations. You really find out through the training that certain people are gifted to be able to ‘hold a space’ for people who have experienced such things. Because of my own trauma, I found through the training that going into those environments wasn’t the way that I wanted to give back, for my own healing and nervous system, but I learned about the many other ways I could give back.”
In addition to the co-teaching, Ingram saw fundraising and advocacy as another productive avenue she could pursue. “The first event was a yoga retreat,” she noted. “We raised a thousand dollars, and were able to put eleven people through the program. It was the first two-hundred-hour teacher training in a women’s institution in the country.”
This year’s event was modified to allow more variety for participants: yoga, berry picking, fireside hanging out and music, as well as a discussion on the details of the donation. Ingram’s recent fundraiser results went towards one of two books—which represent a yoga guide available to all prisoners nationwide through the PYP.
She pointed out, “The book that the fundraiser will benefit is the reprint of A Women’s Practice: Healing from the Heart, by Kath Meadows.”