Yoga used to help students learn control over their lives

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Harvey Mai wipes off beads of sweat as he describes why he started practicing yoga.

"I robbed a bar. I walked into an establishment with a gun and I robbed the place," he said. "Before the age of 21, this was my fourth arrest and I was on my way to prison."

Mai started doing yoga while serving a three year prison sentence at the Cleveland Correctional Center. Members of a non-profit organization called In-powered teach yoga classes to prisoners there.

Now that he's out of prison, Mai owns and operates a food truck and is planning on buying another. But he's still does yoga regularly.

"It seems like it's for the able bodied, wealthy, white population. That's what people think it's for," said In-Powered Chief Operations Officer, Cristina Houston. "That's part of our mission. To break what you think you have to wear, what you think it's supposed to look like, and who it's for."

In-powered also works with students at YES Prep, a Houston charter school for children from low income neighborhoods.

"It was one of those things that I needed to relax and zone out from everything," said 19-year-old Jasmine Pardo.

Another student, Giselle Rojo, ran away from home earlier this year. She was skipping school and hiding from her family, but now the 15-year-old believes she's on a better path. And yoga helped her get there.

"Whenever I hold a pose, you know, it releases emotions," she said. "I hold a pose and it's like I can apply that to real like scenarios. Like keep going, keep trying."

Trying is the only requirement in the yoga classes at YES Prep.

"That they have some of the tools to get out of it instead of finding another way out of it," teacher Stacey Cash said, "instead of finding some other outlet for anger or issues."

"There's a situation, a response, and a result," Rojo added. "You can change your response to change the result."
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