Yoga Teacher Interview – Gill

Gill recently retired from teaching in prisons for many years at HMP Bronzefield and HMP Coldingley in Surrey. She completed the Prison Phoenix Trust British Wheel of Yoga five-day module ‘Teaching Yoga in Prisons’ in 2012.

What’s your most memorable moment?
At a staff wellbeing day at Bronzefield Prison with Jason. We had our stand set up and were ready as staff began to arrive. The hall was full of officers in full uniform with keys jangling on chains. The governor presented awards and gave them lots of praise for their team work to which there was much cheering and clapping and the room was full of camaraderie and fun. She then handed me the microphone and told them I would be introducing them to yoga. I’ve taught for many years, but never to a group in big boots with no room to sit and no mats! We did lots of standing postures and I recall suggesting Tree Pose and saying they looked like a forest.

Any funny moments?
Laughter was usually part of the class, especially when a newcomer arrived and I explained briefly the principles of yoga and how the class would be structured. One resident would add, “and be prepared for torture,” which really broke the ice. I usually deliver a strong practice before meditation and they always returned.

Any difficult situations?
I finished a class and was chatting to the gym instructor. We said our farewells and he left, locking the door behind him. I went to collect my keys (safely locked away during the class) but the door was locked, as was the door to the office with a phone in it. I was stranded. Deep breathing, be in the moment, don’t think about the future or whether he might not be back ‘til morning, still mind, count the breath. Luckily it was only about 10 minutes but it seemed very much longer!

Top tip for staying aware of boundaries
Engage in conversation but to try to keep the focus on the events of their week, or their experiences of the practice, without disclosing anything about yourself.

Your biggest challenge?
When a young resident with a prosthetic leg arrived in class. I had to think quickly to adjust the practice for him without compromising the class for the others.

One piece of advice for new teachers
Teach as you would teach any class. Once you are through all the formalities, passes, security checks etc., and on your mat, relax and enjoy the session. It will show and students will do the same and feel the benefits.