By Bill Brown

Negative and Limiting Beliefs

I spent most of my life with the mantra, “God doesn’t love me,” sounding in the background of my mental chatter. I’d been gifted this mantra at age four; a medical trauma, a broken femur with complications that cost me a part of my right foot. Other factors in my life contributed to this belief, but the pain and loss of this experience are what landed most acutely in my body.

How Could Anyone Love Me?

If God does not love me, then how could anyone else? I was a misfit. I was unwanted. I didn’t belong. That belief shaped my actions in a way that crafted my experience to prove this was true. I built my life around that belief for 37 years, full of rage and self-destruction with that mantra stuck in my mind and in my body.

Opening Through Yoga

At 41, I found my way to a yoga class. Unexpected tears flowed as I settled into Pigeon. In Savasana, I felt safe in my body for the first time in perhaps decades and wept again. This was an opening; an alien experience to my alienated self. I was hooked. The change in me was gradual and then sudden. First to go was my rage. Then my sense of alienation. And then, in an instant, the emotional charge of my spiritual wound.

The Importance of Belonging

The people I work with through Prison Yoga Project, have literally been cut off from society. They’ve been sent a clear message that they are unwanted. As humans, it’s critical that we feel we belong, that we are valued, and accepted. Without love and acceptance, we wither and die, or take our pain out on others and ourselves. I can not bear to see others suffer in this way. It feels too familiar to me.

Love Is Your Birthright

Through yoga, I uncovered the lie I’d been repeating to myself for so many decades and I liberated my body from the painful memory it was holding for me. I offer yoga to others so that they might find relief from the trauma their body holds, and so they can find their way back to the love, acceptance, and belonging that is their birthright.

Compassion Is The Ultimate Source of Happiness

I will leave you with this: “The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.” — H.H. Dalai Lama

About Bill Brown
Bill Brown, C-IAYT, is the Executive Director of Prison Yoga Project. He has brought yoga and mindfulness to San Diego County prisons and jails since 2013 at Federal, State, and County facilities. He is a contributing editor to the Yoga Service Council/Omega Institute’s recently published book Best Practices for Yoga in the Criminal Justice System. He also maintains a private practice as a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT) Practitioner and Group Facilitator, specializing in working with survivors of trauma.