Prisons are reporting incredible results after introducing the ancient Indian practice as part of rehabilitation efforts. Yoga in prison.
Why Yoga teach in prisons?
To bring about behavioural change, prisoners who’ve been brutalised all their lives must be met with empathy and respect. Most prisoners suffer from Complex Trauma, chronic interpersonal trauma experienced early in life such as abandonment, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and witnessing crime – including murder. We call this “original pain.” These experiences, imprinted by the terrifying emotions that accompany them, are held deeply in the mind, and perhaps more importantly, in the body, with the dissociative effects of impulsive/reactive behaviour, and tendencies toward drug and alcohol addiction as well as violence. Carrying unresolved trauma into their lives impacts everything they do, often landing them in prison, where they experience even more trauma.
Yoga as a mindfulness practice is our tool for reengaging prisoners with their bodies to restore the connection between mind, heart and body. We use a yoga practice to develop the whole person, increase sensitivity toward oneself and empathy for others. By putting the men and women back in touch with their bodies, they begin to care more about themselves and understand the harm they have caused.
The highest level of emotional intelligence or emotional literacy is sensate, getting past your mind and relying on your senses to tell you what’s going on in your body. Another way to put it is, using your body to teach your mind. We consistently teach a practice to provide prisoners with a skill to become more sensitive to how they feel in their bodies. When you develop a close relationship with your own sensitivity, you are less apt to violate another. This is empathy. And empathy, when encouraged, leads to compassion. Gradually, the cycle of violence is interrupted.
Video Cred: Aletta Gardner and EWN News (Yoga in Prison)