Erica “Yoga” Jones (portrayed by Constance Shulman), also referred to as “Woodstock” by Mercy and “String-cheese” by Janae Watson, is the yoga instructor at Litchfield as well as the “Simon Says” coordinator for the Mother’s Day event. She is the first person (aside from Lorna Morello) to converse with Piper and offers this bit of advice: “Remember, it’s all temporary.”
Yoga Jones reveals her road to imprisonment when talking to Janae Watson. She was an alcoholic who grew marijuana in her backyard. The deer on her property loved to eat the weed, and she tried everything she could to keep them out of her crops, for they were eating her most popular and lucrative crops. After trying fox urine and six-foot-tall barbed wire fences, she decided to get a shotgun and take care of the problem. While under the influence, she heard rustling and shot into the night. Instead of shooting a deer, she killed the six-year-old boy from next door who was running away from home because his father took away his Nintendo. Jones is still shaken up about her actions to this day.
Yoga Jones says that she always thought that the world “owed her something.” Although she is known as the zen master, she admits that “sometimes you gotta feel something.”
In season two, Yoga Jones joins Brook Soso‘s hunger strike because of yet another unjust stint in the SHU for Janae Watson. She feels that the administration’s random and unfair use of the SHU “like it’s a time-out” is unjustified and inhumane, and thus she joins the resistance. In attempts to level with Watson once again, she tells her, upon her release from the SHU, that she joined the hunger strike because of her suffering. Not wanting to hear it, Watson shoos her away, saying that she doesn’t want to be her “token black friend.”
In season 4, Yoga Jones is plucked from the dorms to be Judy King‘s bunk mate while she’s serving her time, for she requested someone “quiet and polite,” which Healy took to mean “white.” A warrior for peace and social justice, Jones feels guilty about living like the “1%,” feeling as though it’s not fair to everyone else.
Jones exhibits some jealousy when she learns that King is allowed to teach her own cooking class; however, when it’s pointed out to her that she gets to teach her own yoga class, she claims that Judy possesses a different kind of privilege. Anita DeMarco points out to her, though, that yoga is for the rich white upper class, but Jones defends herself saying that Indians have practiced it for centuries, hoping to cover herself.
It only takes her a little while, however, to feel right at home, though secretly. Her love affair with her superior arrangements escalates and is further prolonged when, just after Judy King’s racist cartoon came to light, she requested more security provisions for her. When Caputo assumed that she needed more than that, she went ahead and requested other non-essentials, such as a seltzer machine. Leaving her role in Piper‘s panty business behind, for everything she needs in prison is now handed to her (and because “it’s starting to feel dangerous”), she continues to luxuriate in her quiet living space, further moving away from her roots and beginning to worry about other “poor” inmates taking their things.
Though Jones is enjoying her newfound privileges, she does find that she is subject to King’s will at times. During lock-down, she’s forced into doing Molly with King and Luschek, which ends in an awkward threesome. When she comes down from her high, the reality of the situation crashes down onto her, and she proclaims, “I’m a monster” for being a sellout with her materialistic items.
Finally coming to her senses, she urges King to call the police with her contraband cellphone when it’s discovered that Poussey‘s body still lies in the cafeteria. When she refuses, claiming that she’s not supposed to be present during the scandal, Jones realizes that she no longer appreciates being one of the 1%.