How Yoga Works

The techniques learned from some 5000 years of yoga help us to relieve tension. They also help to balance, purify and restore all of the bodys systems - cardiac, respiratory, muscular and endocrine.

Most of us know that feeling of being tense in the neck after a long car drive. This is not pleasant and affects our mental state. Yoga works to help free tension from the body and your mental state feels less tense as a result.

Moving carefully, focussing on and moving with the breath helps us to tune into a natural intelligence an inner guidance which is always there, but is hard to see when the mind is busy and in pain.

Once you have begun to develop ease in body and mind, seated mediation can then create a deep transformation.

All that is needed is a comfortable, self-supporting, upright position to sit in. Remaining still and breathing naturally as you focus on the breath for a set period of time, the mind gradually becomes less agitated and more alert and focussed. Often problems about me and mine become less. We no longer need to be centre stage in our own minds. We begin to notice how connected we are to everything and everyone.

The only belief necessary to practice in this way is the belief that you can feel better.

Prisoners from all faiths tell us that yoga and meditation strengthen that faith; likewise, people with no religious practice say it helps them discover a deeper part of themselves. Each of us is far more than our thinking minds could ever imagine. Fortunately our true self is always there, waiting to be discovered. And when we see who we truly are, we begin to cherish life our own life and the life around us.

In 2012, Oxford University conducted quantitative research on the benefits of yoga and meditation for prisoners. You can read their paper on the research, entitled "Participation in a 10-week course of yoga improves behavioural control and decreases psychological distress in a prison population" published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in July 2013.

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Yoga and meditation in a prison cell
With my hand on my heart I can say Im in a good space. In my cell right now, Ive got no distractions no telly and no music playing and Im enjoying the peace and quiet for once. Tonight Im going to enjoy again looking into the real me.

Tony, HMP Lewes

  As Head of Residence at Glen Parva, I have been able to introduce yoga to our Violence Reduction programme. Naturally, we approached the Prison Phoenix Trust, and we now have a regular yoga class every Monday.

This is paying huge dividends, and is contributing to an overall reduction in levels of violence at Glen Parva. Some very challenging young men have been able to use techniques learnt in yoga to control some aspects of their impulsive and violent behaviour.

Simon Cass, HMYOI/RC Glen Parva