chapter  10
18 Pages

Is yoga a girl’s thing?

A case study on working-class men doing yoga in jail
WithMar Griera

This chapter focuses on a male-centred context and analyses the role of spiritual practices in refashioning conceptions and performances of masculinity. Drawing on an intensive fieldwork among kundalini yoga students in a male prison in the outskirts of Barcelona, the chapters illustrates how inmates redefine their biographies and reconstruct their imaginaries of masculinity by engaging in a holistic spiritual regime. The implementation of a yoga program in a penitentiary setting is justified by a secular therapeutic narrative that emphasizes the effectiveness of the physical activity for improving inmates’ physical and mental well-being. Nonetheless, an ethnographic appreciation of yoga in the prison context enables us to observe that the regular body practice also entails the silent socialization of inmates into a spiritual worldview. The everyday practice leads the inmates to the acquisition of ‘spiritual stock of knowledge’ with an eastern and holistic air through which their biographical journeys are (re-)signified. In doing so, inmates seem to renegotiate their once strict ‘working-class’ conceptions of masculinity into blurred views towards gendered roles. While primarily focusing on the management of emotions and the ‘caring for others’, these new narratives seemed to hold at least two implications for informants: (1) a strategic status among other male convicts; (2) an affinity with the therapeutic culture promoted by the penitentiary staff under the secularized discourses of ‘mental health’ and ‘security’.