LIFE

Woman Who Escaped Sex Trafficking Offers Yoga And Healing To The Incarcerated

by Roxy Garrity
Roxy is a reporter and writer for LittleThings. Born in North Carolina, she graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Florida, and now lives in Manhattan. She's drawn to uplifting stories that inspire her audience, and she has interviewed a range of compelling public figures, such as President Obama and Taylor Swift. She loves live music, yoga, art, traveling, all animals, and meeting new people. Send her your story ideas or just say hi!

For some, yoga is a way to de-stress your mind and body. For others, yoga can actually be lifesaving, helping to ease the pain of the traumas of their past.

Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, the only maximum security prison for women in New York State, is providing some solace to the women who reside there in a unique way: through the power of Liberation Prison Yoga.

This nonprofit aims to serve prison and jail inmates whose lives have been affected by incarceration and to hopefully teach them to meditate and begin to heal.

Anneke Lucas, the founder, discovered yoga in Los Angeles, and it helped her overcome the post-traumatic stress she suffered from her past. At just 6 years old, Lucas’ mother sold her into sex trafficking in Belgium.

“I was in a murderous, pedophile network in Belgium, and I was very much imprisoned in that network. I had no free choice whatsoever,” said Lucas.

Once yoga became a part of her everyday lifestyle, she knew that it was life-changing for her, and she had a vision for her organization, saying that “yoga is the perfect healing tool.”

Inmate Gloria Nelligan is beyond grateful for Lucas, and is amazed at her teachings.

“Whatever we have inside of us, she makes it OK to let it out through yoga. I just learned how to release all of the negative energy and that I’m safe and that I’m OK within these walls.”

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“When I go into the prison, I feel extremely useful because I’ve become the person that I wish I would have met when I was in the network that I never met,” says Anneke Lucas, the founder of Liberation Prison Yoga.

Simona Bua // LittleThings

“I felt this inner peace in yoga that I’ve just never felt before,” said Gloria Nelligan, an inmate at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Nelligan also credits yoga for replacing pain medications she was taking for a knee injury.

Simona Bua // LittleThings

For Nelligan, it was not just a way for her to de-stress; yoga has also made her feel healthier. “I was on all these different medications. They weren’t working for me. Yoga replaced my medications,” she Nelligan.

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Lucas hopes that by sharing her story, it will encourage others to bring yoga into prisons across the country. Liberation Prison Yoga offers workshops to train yoga instructors to help inmates whose lives have been affected by incarceration. Check out the full story in the video below to hear Lucas’ inspirational story as we follow her into a maximum security prison to watch as she teaches a yoga class.

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