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MANDELA YOGA STUDIO AT SAN QUENTIN PRISON — COVID-19 EMERGENCY RESPONSE

Mt. Tamalpais College and MYP began to collaborate to create Mandela Yoga Studio at San Quentin Prison — a virtual studio in the form of a library of high quality yoga videos featuring BIPOC yoga teachers and practices that speak to the specific needs and conditions of incarcerated individuals. When the COVID-19 outbreak reached the prison in the summer of 2020, MYP quickly pivoted to create a smaller yoga video collection featuring yoga teachers from across North America to support prisoners quarantining in their cells.

THE TEAM OF COLLABORATORS

The collaborators on the Mandela Yoga Studio at San Quentin team have a track record of working together. The association between Jody Lewen and Jeffrey Thomas began when Jeffrey ran the Oakland Congressional Office of United States Representative Barbara Lee.
 

The San Quentin warden at that time estimated that as many as 80% of the people at San Quentin Prison made Oakland their home upon release. The Congressional Office initiated and engaged in a number of reentry collaborations with the private and public sectors to address the challenges and barriers to full participation in society by people returning to society after serving time in conditions of incarceration. Later, Jeffrey served more than half a decade on the Prison University Project board.

When COVID-19 reached the prison, Jody undertook a number of rapid response efforts including collaborating with Jeffrey to create yoga videos to be broadcast inside San Quentin.

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DR. JODY LEWEN

President, Mount Tamalpais College

Dr. Jody Lewen is the founder and President of Mount Tamalpais College, the force behind the creation of one of only a handful of accredited associates-degree-granting colleges inside prisons in the United States. Her involvement dates back to 1999, when she started working as a volunteer for what was then know as the Prison University Project. Over the years, she has served as a thought leader in the field of prison education, advocating for the values of high academic quality and inclusivity. She has served as a resource to policy makers, practitioners, academics, the administrations at San Quentin Prison and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Under her leadership, the program was granted accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)—a significant achievement which reflects nearly 25 years of work building a high-quality Associate of Arts degree program at San Quentin State Prison. In 2016, she received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.

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AURORA HESPER BRACHMAN

Covid-19 MYP Video Producer

Aurora Hesper Brachman is the filmmaker who produced the COVID-19 San Quentin Yoga Video series. She is a second-year MFA candidate at Stanford film school. As an undergraduate, Aurora was a Fulbright Scholar and created a documentary about the effects of climate change on the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. Entitled: "Life Between the Tides," it will be distributed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Her film JOYCHILD was a 2020 Sundance short film selection.

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UMA BEHATI

Covid-19 MYP Yoga Teacher

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ALYSHA BRILLA

Covid-19 MYP Yoga Teacher

Alysha Brilla is an artist, yoga teacher and music producer based in Canada. Her Indo-Tanzanian roots inform her spiritual world view, teaching style and music. She brings them together to facilitate dynamic classes for those looking to heal mentally, physically and spiritually. She is currently working on her fifth album and a collaborative music and yoga project with fellow artist Desirée Dawson.

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DESIRÉE DAWSON

Covid-19 MYP Yoga Teacher

Desirée Dawson is a songwriter and yoga teacher. She is very passionate about healing as a collective using the power of melodies, lyrics, and instrumentation to encourage listeners to find a connection within them and to better connect with the people/land around them. Desirée’s mission is to create in a way that allows people to feel and heal and that’s exactly what she does.

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JOHNATHAN HOLMES

Covid-19 MYP Yoga Teacher

Johnathon, a registered nurse, has been teaching around Boston since he graduated from Boston Yoga School in 2014. A self identified Queer POC, he aims to hold space that is inclusive, affirming and accessible for anyone wishing to practice in a way that cultivates deeper self-awareness through focusing the attention on the body and breath. He believes the simplest practices can be the most transformative, growing our ability to pause and respond, rather than react to the unexpected and provocative.

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DANIEL MAX

Covid-19 MYP Yoga Teacher

Daniel Max is co-founder and director of JP Centre Yoga, a yoga studio and wellness center located in Boston. He has been certified as a shiatsu practitioner, massage therapist, yoga instructor, and nutrition and health counselor. He opened his yoga studio with the vision of creating a community-based environment that allows for each individual to go inward, refocus the mind, and cultivate a calming experience. Daniel has trained in the Vinyasa and Anusara traditions and is currently training in an Iyengar certification program. His yoga classes are delivered as a breath-based vinyasa flow with an emphasis on strength and flexibility within optimal alignment.

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Kiara Segal

Covid-19 MYP Yoga Teacher

Kiara Segal is a Boston-area yoga teacher and acupuncturist. Her practices are rooted in an understanding of the complex intersection between personal, social, and environmental health. She offers classes and treatments that strive to reflect the diverse ways in which we heal, and give space for that process to unfold in its own time, and with its own unique character. Her hope is to offer an opportunity to breathe, reconnect with ourselves, and find some peace amidst the chaos.

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MARCUS STANBECK

Covid-19 MYP Yoga Teacher

Marcus Stanbeck has been a dedicated student of yoga since 2016. Originally beginning yoga to relieve back pain, he saw benefits from the connection of breath to movement and mindfulness. As a former D1 athlete, he enjoys finding ways to use yoga to challenge students to build their body awareness. He aims to embody and share subtle aspects of yoga through intentional breathing and an alignment-based exploration of the postures. Marcus decided to teach yoga when he saw a lack of representation for black men in the yoga industry. He sees the practice of yoga as an opportunity for us to build habits that support our practice on the mat and our lives off the mat. His 200- & 500-hour certifications were completed at Yoga Bhoga in Portland, OR. He welcomes you to join him in the practice of paying attention.