Benefits of Yoga Behind Bars in Jails, Prisons, and Correctional Institutions

Helen yoga
Yoga is being used in prisons to encourage calm and personal growth. Image via Wikipedia

My work has been pretty high-stress lately, and I’ve been trying different things to relax and try to make my off-work hours very enriching and recuperative. I recently read about this non-profit organization, Yoga Behind Bars, that offers free yoga classes to incarcerated youth and adults.

Yoga Behind Bars is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in Seattle that brings yoga and meditation classes to incarcerated youth and adults in Washington State as well as those at risk of entering the criminal justice system. We are a volunteer-driven organization that teaches 11 classes a week at 7 different facilities. Our mission is to share tools of self-awareness, healing and transformation with our students. (at Yoga Behind Bars).

I think this is a great idea! First, there are multiple benefits of yoga, even for the non-incarcerated:

“There is a growing body of research that supports our belief in the efficacy of yoga and meditation classes to support true individual healing and change. Participation in yoga classes has been shown to reduce depression, anger, and anxiety, often a root cause of antisocial behavior and drug use. Yoga has also been established as an effective adjunctive therapy during treatment for drug addiction, which is a co-factor in many of our students’ incarceration.” (more citations provided in the original article)

more via Benefits of Yoga Behind Bars in Jails, Prisons, and Correctional Institutions.

I can’t believe how stressful and un-enriching it must be to be incarcerated. There are constant political battles that often result in violence, lack of exercise, friends, or contact with the outside world. I am always supportive of programs that try to bring beneficial programs into prisons, like Puppies Behind Bars, theater classes, or raising frogs through the Sustainable Prisons Project.

This is also a great therapy and skill to teach prisoners, because they can take this training and use it outside of the yoga class without an instructor or without a structured setting, either alone in their cell or just practicing breathing when it gets tough.

I’m curious to hear of other programs that are offering enrichment to people living in incarceration, or other environments where they don’t have the same opportunities to go out and enrich their own lives. Please share any you know of in the comments.