Because of COVID-19, the New Hampshire Department of Corrections suspended all visits and volunteer services at the state’s prisons on March 16, more than 7 weeks ago.
Nicole Belonga has been serving time at the New Hampshire State Prison for women in Concord for 11 years.
She says these efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have cut off almost all contact with the outside world, making stressful prison life even more so.
“There's no visits, there’s no volunteers, there’s no classes going on,” she says. “We’re separated by units, so we’re around the exact same people for every part of our day. So it gets to be a little much.”
But if you were able to peek into Belonga’s cell, you’d see how she’s coping. She’s doing yoga, running through a series of poses.
“The warriors 1, 2, and 3,” she says. “Pigeon pose, which is really good for your hips. The bowl pose.”
For Belonga, yoga brings more than stress relief. She says she has experienced trauma, but she didn’t want to share the details. For a few months, though, when she was taking yoga classes inside the prison, she couldn’t make it through a session without crying.