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Prison Gratitude Mandalas & Yoga

In May, Harambee Arts returned to the
prison with Margaret and Ann from Africa Yoga Project for more yoga and
expressive arts.

Margaret and Ann taught two yoga classes
while Sofia led the women through drawing Gratitude Mandalas. They are both
fantastic yoga teachers, with an ideal balance of discipline and humour. Their
classes combine yoga with music and even a little dancing while in warrior
position! During the class each woman visibly experiences several emotions or
feelings from frustration and pain to joy and strength. This can be seen in
their expressions- bright smiles and giggles or contorted faces of discomfort!
By the end of class each woman has completely worked her body and mind. When
asked how they feel, afterwards they excitedly say, “We feel NICE!”

While one group practices yoga the other
group works with Sofia using expressive art. This month we explored the
therapeutic tool of gratitude mandalas. Mandala in Sanskrit means
‘circle’.  Drawing Mandalas is
useful in helping the mind focus and meditate on one space and therefore aids
in calming the mind into the present (similar to the practice of Yoga).  Gratitude Mandalas furthermore help us
take account and bring awareness to the present moment and what we are grateful
for in that moment. The women first listed what they were grateful for in the
present and then represented it within their Mandalas through drawings and the
words- ‘Thank You For This Moment’ or ‘Asante Kwa Sahi’ in Swahili.

 They listed and expressed in their mandalas such things as:

“I am happy for this time cos I am not

“I am happy for the gift of life!”

“I am grateful for the sunshine and fresh
air, the food, chatting and exercise.”

“At the moment I am grateful for feeling
happy and good health-wise. I love the jokes we have together, it makes us feel
at home.”

“I am grateful for being able to accept the
things I cannot change and for living one day at a time without any undue

After yoga and drawing we ate a filling
lunch together. We then put on music and had a little dance party!

Another inspiring, fun, laughter filled day
with our sisters at Langata Prison!