To say the experience of prison changed someone’s life is cliché, a prelude to a tale perhaps told too many times. But, for Samantha Pfautz, the statement is real.
In 2016, Sam—then 21 years old—made the fateful and misguided decision to get behind the wheel of a car after a night of partying. It was a normal Saturday night out for Sam, the regularity of which she now realizes was a downward spiral in her lifestyle, where going out and drinking too much was part of her regular routine. The alcohol in her system hindered her ability to navigate a turn in Strasburg Township. Hydroplaning, she lost control of the vehicle. After hitting an embankment, her friends were ejected from the car and sustained serious injuries.
“I wanted to go out to the bar every night. My life was going nowhere,” says the now 22-yearold graduate of Manheim Central. “I really messed up. I shouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel of a car that night. At the same time, I was mad. I was mad at life for throwing those things at me. Prison gave me a chance to sit down and realize it wasn’t life—it was me that was doing it.”
A 12-month sentence—with three months off for good behavior—gave Sam the inspiration to take responsibility for her life.
“I never pictured myself in trouble. I was not a horribly bad kid. I didn’t do drugs,” says Sam. “I felt like I let people down, and that is a big thing for me. I don’t like letting people down.”
Among those people are the friends in the car during the accident.
“I want to tell them I’m sorry. I let them down,” says Sam, her voice is sure, but still quiet with remorse. “We had a wake-up call and we should take it.”
After prison, Sam thought she would just go back to her life as it was, working and drinking, but then she met Beth Weaver and Lisa Taylor of Evolution Power Yoga. Through the A.I.M. to Empower program, the duo teaches in places such as the prision in order to unify and bring positivity to the inmates.
A month into Sam’s imprisonment, an administrator at Lancaster County Prison asked if anyone would be interested in yoga, and she and a few others said yes. She took the classes seriously—never having missed a session and often recruiting others into the program.
“When I started doing yoga and started pushing my body to limits it’s never been before, I realized how much easier and better it is to be sober and see life how it is,” explains Sam, who fully embraced the program.
She never pictured herself doing yoga. Now, in her Manheim apartment, she talks about how yoga releases toxins from her body, brings her peace, and enables her to see herself as who she is, not who she pretends to be. Part of her is the same Sam she was before prison, but she is now calm, more relaxed. And except for a few sips of champagne on New Years Eve, she’s stopped drinking completely. She has been granted a scholarship to train as a yoga instructor and started classes in March. Yoga is now part of her career path, which will give her means to avoid going back to her previous employment as a bartender. If all goes as she plans, it will also get Sam back into prison… this time as a yoga instructor.
“I want to help other women like Beth and Lisa helped me,” says Sam. “I want to give back.” In retrospect, Sam can now see her prision experience as a positive turning point in her life and acredits yoga as the reason she can forgive herself for her actions.
“I turned my life 360, completely around,” says Sam. “I am glad I had the chance to turn my life around before it got too ugly. Yoga gave me the chance to turn my life around… this gave me every building block that I needed.”
Sam also brought home with her the motivation from another empowering woman, Cheryl Steberger. The prison’s first female warden helped to get Sam on work release and showed her what it meant to work hard. “I saw first hand how much she juggled in a day and it made me say ‘Hey, look what she’s doing. I can do something myself,’” she explains.
Beyond yoga, her goals extend into 2020 when she plans to fulfill her desire to go to school and become an animal care technician. Goat yoga is a pretty popular trend right now, but Sam doesn’t know about that. She loves dogs. Dog yoga in Lancaster? Well, stranger things have happened around here.