Yoga in prisons: All about the self-control

I probably don’t have to tell you that yoga can help with impulse control and self-discipline. (I’m glad I don’t, as I’m too busy sneaking bites of a cookie to do so…)

Maybe, though, it’s worth reminding you that yoga can help prisoners with the same issues.

That’s proven true for James Fox, founder of Prison Yoga Project, who’s the subject of a “Change Agent” piece in the Christian Science Monitor. He’s been working with both adult and juvenile prisoners for more than 10 years.

Image of prisoners in yoga class, via the CSM

As he explains it, the discipline produced by yoga addresses some serious issues many prisoners face.

“The men that I work with didn’t get proper guidance when they were in adolescence, never dealt with core social and emotional issues of that age – they rebelled instead, or got locked up at an early age,” he tells the Monitor.

The Monitor pegs its piece on the growing concern about prison overcrowding; it notes that California faces Supreme Court orders to lower the numbers of prisoners in order to avoid inhuman conditions in its state prisons. (Side note: Rather than via yoga, California is addressing this by moving non-violent offenders back to county jails, which really isn’t much more than a shell game with humans.)

A major cause of overcrowding — three-strikes rules that put non-violent offenders behind bars for decades is one — is the high recidivism rate. In the U.S., it’s been as high as 60+%.

By giving prisoners a practice that can help their self-control — maybe keep them from buying drugs, retaliating in a fight or worse — Fox hopes to reduce the numbers of people who go into and out of prison.

He’s spreading his beliefs via a book he’s written for prisoners on how to practice yoga on their own and given out, for free, some 5,000 times.

If this sounds familiar, it is because Eddie Stern offered up someone doing similar work in response to the “yoga didn’t make me skinny” article in the New York Times.

Off the mat, into the world, for sure.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Yoga in prisons: All about the self-control”

  1. Although yoga has always been associated with Hinduism, it is actually even older than the religion. In fact, yoga is considered to be the oldest physical discipline in the world. This is perhaps the reason why there is no clear answer where it came from and when it started.

  2. This is perfectly the answer, I had a experience in teaching yog postures to mentally retarted children, and I have seen real right response from the students, and proudly I can say most my students are leaving a natural life now as ordinary people

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