Yoga in prisons

Flower behind bars
Image CC from Open Clip Art

Coincidences happen every so often and within the space of a few weeks I read or came across various references to yoga and meditation in prisons.

A fellow yogi passed on the Prison Phoenix Trust newsletter. This organisation has been going for 25 years and they provide a support service for people in prisons to help them with their yoga and meditation, as well as helping to train yoga teachers to prepare them for teaching yoga in prisons. I have a huge amount of respect for the organisation and teachers, and some of the letters from prisoners published in the newsletter are really moving. You can support them in various ways – I would recommend reading their newsletter as a starting point.

More recently the BBC World Service broadcast a programme on how yoga and meditation helps prisoners across the world, with an accompanying article on their website. It’s really interesting in terms of how people in very difficult circumstances have been able to use breathing, meditation and yoga postures to help them cope with numerous challenges.

And finally I heard on the radio (I think, it’s all a bit vague now), a programme where a nun was describing a conversation she’d had with an inmate in prison. She’d described her typical day in the convent, he described his day in prison. There were many similarities such as early rising, communal meals, time spent alone, time being productive doing shared tasks. But she had no radio, newspaper, Internet, TV or mobile devices. Hers was a chosen style of life, his imposed. Apparently, after a long pause, he genuinely took pity on her and suggested that if things got too much for her she could come to the prison instead.

How we perceive things is, to some extent, a state of mind. If we think we are trapped, we are. If we think we are deprived, we will see ourselves as deprived. But if we see our lives as blessed, rich in opportunities, they will be. And we can use all aspects of yoga to help us realise this.

6 thoughts on “Yoga in prisons

  1. By coincidence, l went to a wedding this weekend where the groom was a prison warder. I sat at the same table as his uncle and his wife. He had retired aged 52 from prison service – having derived no joy from the job – and become (wait for it) a Shiatsu teacher and uses meditation himself. His wife was even more amazing: she is presently governor of Exeter prison, and uses a holistic approach to her job, as well as meditation. And derives a lot of joy and satisfaction from the work. She is ahead of the new legislation where smoking is due to be banned in prisons, and has already persuaded an enormous number of them to give up. I left the wedding feeling fulfilled that l had met these 2 people


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