Welcome our California Program Manager, Gabrielle Blue!

Dear PYP Community,

We are thrilled to welcome Gabrielle Blue as PYP’s new California Program Manager. Due to the tremendous growth and success of our programs in California, we recognized the need to bring on a dedicated Program Manager to focus exclusively on this region. Gabrielle Blue will oversee the diverse array of initiatives we have established throughout the state, ensuring that each program operates smoothly and effectively.

We recently had the pleasure of connecting with Gabrielle for a wonderful conversation. Read on to learn more about her!

Can you tell us a little about your experience and what drew you to the Prison Yoga Project?

I’m an army brat; my Dad was in the military, so I’ve traveled around the world my whole life. This experience has given me a unique perspective. When you’ve seen different countries and cultures, you notice a common thread: everyone wants to be happy and live a life they are proud of. This understanding has always inspired me to hold space for people in diverse communities. My professional background is in marketing and communications. I wrote for INC magazine and then transitioned into PR and marketing. What drew me to the Prison Yoga Project (PYP) is that it’s the first organization I’ve worked with whose values, mission, and vision I truly believe in. Combining yoga and mindfulness, PYP is helping my community. There are so many Black and Brown people incarcerated in the U.S., and to find an organization that helps, rehabilitates, and offers tools was really big for me. This gave me the motivation to take the full-time position, and here we are!

What aspects of our mission and vision resonate most with you, and why?

Two major aspects resonate with me. First, providing programs for rehabilitation. When you think of prisons, you don’t often think of rehabilitation. People assume that once someone is in jail, their life isn’t going to improve. It’s crucial to have ways to rehabilitate people when they need it the most. Second, the cultural shift towards healing crime and harm. This is a significant task! When I think of a cultural shift, I consider how we, as a community, can achieve this. The criminal justice system has many layers that disadvantage Black and Brown people. Working with an organization addressing this in real-time is important, and I’m proud to be part of such a shift.

How do you see yoga and mindfulness practices supporting liberation and healing within the context of incarceration?

Yoga and mindfulness practices are powerful tools for healing trauma. They are trauma-informed and crucial for regulating emotions and understanding the thoughts and feelings that trigger certain emotions. These practices help with stress reduction, resilience, awareness, and personal growth. When you practice yoga daily, you experience these benefits. We now have statistics showing that this work is deeply impactful and empowering for our participants. They can take control of their feelings, fostering a great sense of community.

Can you share a personal story or experience that has shaped your approach to teaching yoga and mindfulness?

I started doing yoga when my Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and given six months to live. When he chose to follow a natural path, our entire family changed careers. I moved from PR to yoga, my Mom went from being a nurse to a coach, and my brother became a chef. Seeing my stern father open up and connect with us transformed our family. We became softer and more emotionally aware. We were never a family that cried; we were survivors. My Father’s shift changed our entire family dynamic. I’m grateful for this change, as it led me to this path. Despite his diagnosis, he lived another ten years, and we saw the profound impact of his practice.

Tell us about your experience with trauma-informed practices, and how do you apply these principles in your work?

With yoga, I always intend to meet myself and others where they are. Whether I’m teaching or participating, I create space for people to be themselves. You never know why people are showing up, so I treat each moment as sacred. I approach these practices with gentleness, without judgment. I don’t know what kind of day or life someone is having, so I start by observing and creating a forgiving space.

How do you approach building trust and rapport with individuals who may be skeptical or resistant to yoga and mindfulness practices?

A lot of this involves listening. I’m there to hold space while participants move through the practice. It’s about understanding their wants and needs, asking questions, reading the room, and engaging with them. Sometimes, what you have prepared may not be what the room needs. Educating participants about yoga and mindfulness, and their various tools, is always beneficial. Starting small and being flexible helps create a safe environment. Trust builds over time, and when participants feel safe, they are more comfortable using the tools for their benefit.

How do you envision contributing to Prison Yoga Project’s mission of supporting liberation and healing through yoga and mindfulness?

One of my significant goals is to maintain and expand our relationships with facilitators and coordinators. It’s also crucial to bring in staff and facilitators who reflect the communities we serve. There’s a difference when a person of color walks into a room with tools for rehabilitation; fewer walls need to fall. It’s incredibly important to send in facilitators and coordinators with lived experiences. I want to contribute to this cultural shift.

What are some of your hobbies or activities that help you recharge and stay grounded?

I have my own yoga practice and still love learning, so I take as many classes as I can. As an introvert, I need solo time. If I’m not meditating, I’ll go for a long drive or take a quick trip. Traveling reminds me of my family and the quality, authentic connections we had. It’s important to practice what I preach; yoga is an integral and ever-growing part of my life.

Any final thoughts?

It’s rare to find an organization that resonates so deeply with your passion. I’m excited to dig in my roots and see how we can grow together.