Like us, at first thought you might assume yoga to be the perfect activity/treatment for the incarcerated. Hey we’ve never been to jail but we’ve see Shawshank Redemption! And can imagine it’s pretty stressful in there, being locked up and all. A little yoga would do just the trick to ease the angst and perhaps inspire some good habits. And with all these prisoners finding Jesus in jail, why not yoga?
Welp, what we forget is that with yoga, and deep breathing, comes the uprooting of deep emotions and psychological locks that had previously been tucked away, deep in the caverns of our mind, and our muscles. Yes, there is crying in yoga. Cursing too, dammit! You could say it’s a bit like “ex-er-cising the demons”. Are jails prepared to handle inmates’ emotions unleashed?
Right now yoga is actually a bone of contention in recent discussions over an $8 billion CA state prison health reform plan, where a proposed yoga space is argued as either necessary for mental health requirements or a waste of money. Perhaps not helping the case is an experiment held in a Norwegian high-security jail a couple of years ago which produced surprisingly mixed results with negatives being “agitation, aggression, irritability, trouble sleeping and mental confusion.” The program was canned.
And then… there’s the Prison Yoga Project, their mission:
“to expand the practice of Hatha Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation to prisons and rehabilitation facilities, and to provide training for Yoga instructors interested in teaching to at-risk populations in prisons, residential rehabilitation facilities, and community programs.”
That teaching bit is something special – prison yoga students probably aren’t your easiest crowd. Special skills are a plus.
The Art of Living is another non-profit org seeking to promote peace within cell block walls. You can watch a BBC video report on their positive influence in a maximum security prison in South Africa.
Jails aren’t full of cookie cutter criminals, and maybe not every crook can handle the transformative affects of yoga, so it’s only sensible to adapt programs to certain cases. The “rehabilitation” attempt seems solid, and addiction is probably a good place to start.
Also, get those poor inmates some decent $90 lululemon pants for crying out loud! What are we animals?