Sunday, 10 July 2016

Denise Payne Teaches Yoga at Kerobokan

I had the great fortune to meet Denise when I went on holiday to Ubud, Bali a few years ago. A weekly pass to The Yoga Barn ensured I was a regular Power Yoga participant and her teaching, her delivery, her appreciation and compassion and knowledge of yoga beyond physical asanas to the real essence of what it is to live yoga emanates from her in class and outside it.
As well as taking Yoga Teacher Training in Indonesia and internationally, Denise also teaches at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali as well as volunteering her time to inmates at the infamous Kerobokan Prison.

Yes, the same one that Australians Schapelle, Myuran and Andrew were imprisoned for drugs charges. Denise met both Myuran and Andrew, though it was Myuran who took to yoga with greater interest and effort.

Here's my interview with her and if nothing else, perhaps it will make you re-think how you pigeon hole people - any and all people. It might even make you consider how you could donate your time and skills in a way that uplifts people who need it. And don't we all?

Cat: When did you first begin teaching yoga at Kerobokan? 

I first started teaching at Kerobokan prison in 2011

How did you find out about the opportunity or did you approach them?

I was contacted by Myuran Sukamaran, who had gotten my information from a woman involved with the silver program, Joanna Witt.

We communicated for about 2 weeks about starting the program and going through the proper channels.

How did the authorities respond and has that changed over time?

I felt very fortunate, as Myu had initiated so many programs by the time I showed up, the class was very well received. The guards were always friendly and some of the participated in class at times.

It changed over the years for various reasons. There was a riot a few years ago that set the program back for a couple of months. Or a new head of security would need time to adjust and then the class would be on hold. Once Myu and Andrew were moved in February of last year, there was also some upheaval, but the classes continued, as well as after the execution. I’ve always done my best to keep the consistency of the program for the other inmates.

Many Australians are familiar with the prison because of Myuran and Andrew. Did you meet them and what can you tell me about them as you knew them?

Myu and I had a wonderful relationship. He loved the yoga and always participated in classes. During the last few months before being moved, however, it was very hectic at Kerobokan. He had a lot of family visiting and had numerous meetings with his lawyers. The classes were on hold for a while and I would do private sessions with him.

I was able to get to know Andrew a little bit over the years, too.

Who else have you met at the prison and has their responsiveness or commitment surprised you?

The people that participate in the yoga program are there every week and always amaze me with their smiles and hugs and dedication.

Do you introduce spiritual aspects of yoga or is it purely the physical asana practice?

It’s hard to have one without the other, really. I have a tendency to wrap it all up in one package anyway. There is so much mediation and spirituality opportunities in each asana, it makes it easy. :-)

How often do you teach there?

We have classes twice a week now, and I’m so lucky to have another teacher that has taken this to heart. I could use two more teachers with her dedication to giving back!

What are the conditions like for inmates and has this changed over time?

I’m going to pass on this one.

What have been the major learnings for you from working with the prisoners?

Going to the jail is quite often the highlight of my week. It’s kind of funny because most people might think that the prisoners are the ones that get something out if it, and they do, no doubt, but the truth is it’s me that gets a does of medicine when I see everyone's smiling faces, rocking up with their mats and ready to work. It can be quite depressing to say the least about being in jail, yet the hearts still shine. So, what I've learned mostly for the classes and the group is to let my heart shine in the worst of times.

What I learned from Myuran is how to surrender completely.

What do you think most people misunderstand about those in Kerobokan?

I don’t really know how to answer this question, Cat. I’ve never thought about it.

Do you conduct the class in Indonesian or English and what nationalities are your students?

I teach in English, and the yogis are from all over the world, including Indonesia. Most of the foreigners speak English, and the locals follow along. Our classes are very giggly.

Is there a favourite pose? Do you work on handstands?

Yes of course! Loads of handstands and other inversions. I’m lucky to have 90 minutes for class so we have plenty of time for everything, including a nice long savasana.

What do the Kerobokan students struggle with most?

I’d imagine the same things we all struggle with. Do we feel loved unconditionally? Do we feel like we are good enough? Do we feel like we do enough?

Further information on Denise and her YTT courses are on her website, Denise Payne Yoga

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