Yoga Practice Reduces the Psychological Distress Levels of Prison Inmates

A new Swedish study has shown that a 10-week yoga course can lead to a reduction of levels of psychological distress in prisoners, which can in turn make them less likely to reoffend. The study also links regular yoga practice to reduction in obsessive-compulsive and paranoid thinking, as well as a reduction in “somatisation” (mental distress leading to physical symptoms).

You can read the full study here and find more studies on yoga and meditation in prison on our evidence page.

A Day for Prison Yoga Teachers in Scotland and the North of England: Celebrating Prison Yoga and Meditation!

Eric Liddell Centre, Edinburgh, Saturday 9th March, 2019 – £30

Yoga teachers have been offering yoga and meditation in Scottish prisons for longer than the Prison Phoenix Trust has been established: over 30 years! This day is a chance for teachers currently working in prison – and those interested in finding out more – to discuss the approaches that prisoners have said are most useful in helping them discover a deep sense of freedom and renewal. We’ll look at how we can best use that feedback from prisoners as we go in to teach our prison classes each week, and examine other principles of working with prisons which help successfully embed yoga into a prison’s regime. Finally, we will practise meditation and yoga together and have ample time to hear from each other how our classes in prison are going. This day is for teachers from Scotland, the north of England and further afield.

To find our more please email us or get in touch with Sally, Brent or Victoria on 01865 512521

A Day for Prison Yoga Teachers: Recognising and Working with Autism in Your Prison Classes

Wytham Village Hall, Oxford, 10th February 2019 – £10

We’d scheduled this day for 2018, but the speaker fell ill, so we couldn’t hold it. We’re pleased that she’s agreed to be with us in 2019.
This day is for yoga and meditation teachers already working or offering cover in prisons, secure hospitals, IRCs and bail hostels, or those about to begin. The incidence of autism among prisoners is estimated to be higher than the general population. This day will help you identify signs of autism in your students in prison, and to practice those skills you already possess which will help you work effectively with them. Caroline Hearst, an ‘informed insider’ (she was relieved to discover she was autistic as an adult) and founder of Autism Matters, will lead us through an interactive and informative morning.
While the two other aspects of the day aren’t to do with autism, they fit the aim of informing and sharing experience for your teaching. We don’t often have the chance to hear the inner experience of our prisoner students, so we are fortunate that John, a former prisoner, will be talking with us about his life running drugs before prison, his time inside and his life since release. And there will be plenty of time to share challenges and what is working well in your prison classes. We will find time for yoga asana and seated meditation and a bring-and-share lunch and ample breaks provide a chance to talk with others engaged in this unique work. The cost is being kept low to minimise expenses for teachers travelling from a distance.

To find our more please email us or get in touch with Sally, Brent or Victoria on 01865 512521

The 30 Friends Appeal

This year, the Prison Phoenix Trust turns 30 years old. The picture above is of PPT Patron Jeremy Irons helping us celebrate this milestone at a recent event! To help us towards seeing another three decades, we are looking for 30 friends and supporters on the outside who would like to commit £500 each year (or £42 a month) for the next three years.

The demand for our work is increasing – there are 23% more yoga classes than this time last year, and the number of people who asked for our book packs rose by 34% last year. This means we are currently supporting 176 weekly classes in 91 institutions and sending out 3,485 book packs a year to prisoners who ask for our help.

To support this ongoing work, we continue to need to raise money. Last year, a kind friend who has been giving £35,000 annually for the last 13 years let us know they will not be able to continue, as their circumstances are changing. This is a great opportunity for us to let more people know about our work, and to invite them to share in this work, founded on the healing power of silence, with meditation and yoga, and founded on the basic human activity of reaching out and connecting with each other.

If you’d like to be one of those 30 people who will set up a regular donation of £42 a month (or any amount you’d like) this year, please fill out the form below and we’ll email you details of how to start a direct debit. We’d be delighted if you choose to be involved in this way.

Vote for us in the Aviva Awards!

We have been nominated for the Aviva Community Fund! We’re asking for £5,000 to help young offenders through meditation and yoga.

If enough people vote for our project, we go through to a final judging stage and potentially get the grant. We would so much appreciate your help on this! You can register for a free account and vote for our project here.

Yoga Mats Now Allowed in Cells

Often prisoners want a mat of their own so they can practise in their cells. For many years, people imprisoned in England & Wales couldn’t keep yoga mats in their cells (though all prisons don’t always follow all regulations so some prisoners did have mats). But it is now permissible for prisoners to keep yoga mats in their cells. A prisoner at HMP Frankland made a complaint to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman about needing a mat in his cell for health and safety reasons. The Ombudsman contacted The Prison Phoenix Trust, who presented a range of arguments that the Ombudsman could use in lobbying for this change. As a result Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 30/2013 was updated.
On page 2 of the 70 page document you will find: “Yoga mats have been added to the standardised facilities list…”, meaning the list of things that prisoners are allowed to have. They can usually order things from the facilities list from approved suppliers, like Argos. So if your prisoner students ask if they can have yoga mats, you can let them know the prison service instruction number. If you search and find PSI 30/2013 on-line, the section about the yoga mats is on the second page.

Summer Newsletter Now Out

Our summer newsletter is now available to read online here. In this issue we  feature two practical yoga and breathing routines as well as many letters from prisoners, telling of how yoga and meditation have been helping them behind bars. We have an article on the importance of taking the time to lament when we are met with national tragedy – an article sadly very relevant at the moment.

View the newsletter online here!

If you’d like to subscribe to our online newsletter, please fill in this form. If you prefer a paper copy, then drop us a line and we’ll add you to the mailing list.

On Sadness and Anger

“I still find it hard to get in touch with my feelings. My gut tells me sadness is something I have a lot of. Today after my morning sitting I stopped and thought about how I feel about myself. My awareness shot to the memory of me as a little boy, and I felt a cocktail of sadness, feeling sorry, and maybe compassion for this little boy, who I realise is still within me. Sometimes I feel a vast space down inside my body that is so still. Anger can come back like a tidal wave and if I’m quick I observe it and the flames die very quickly and I feel like I’ve grown or maybe changed. This is so empowering.”

– Frank, HMP The Mount