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Yoga and meditation in a prison cell

  Through yoga and meditation my peace of mind has grown beyond my wildest dreams.

I used to be so moody and angry and the things I used to dwell upon and hold onto don't cause me to resent anyone or anything any more.

It's only the gift of meditation and breath that has made me see that I couldn't progress until I let go completely of all the anger from within me.

A prisoner, HMP Pentonville 

I have always been impressed with the way the PPT are very sensitive to the pressures of the prison environment, and have worked extremely hard to ensure that they work with staff and systems to achieve their ends, successfully avoiding conflict.  The work that the PPT does plays an important part in providing opportunities for prisoners to handle stress and come to terms with their imprisonment.

Luke Serjeant, Regional Manager, Custodial Services, West Midlands.

Books
Life has changed so much for the better since receiving your letter and enclosures. Thanks to your lovely easy to follow book Iím now on Ďthe pathí which Iím hoping will lead me to a better place. I really do believe that every time I practice yoga or meditation you are all with me.

Hannah, HMP/YOI Holloway

Meditation is going to be the key. I often sit quietly and think of the effects of my actions on others, and what I must do to repay those whom Iíve hurt so much.

Steve, HMP Parkhurst

Meditation practice is working for me. It helps me to be calm, relaxed and not get angry and irritated. It helps me not react to people in a bad way and to take peopleís opinion on board. Recently, when someone went a bit too far, instead of reacting to it I just walked away.

Colin, HMP Wymott

I actually really enjoy doing the yoga and meditation. It makes me feel happier and more patient. When things go wrong for me and something bad happens, I just do my yoga and meditation and find some calm and safety and comfort and it feels truly amazing.

Ant, HMPYOI Lichfield

A friend gave me one of your books. BOOM! It seemed like this was the natural thing Iíd been missing all these years. I immediately felt comfortable with it. It has given me a clearer understanding of all the ways I was going wrong in life.

Olly, HMP Wayland

When I was in HMP Maghaberry I started doing yoga once a week.  The teacher Mary was great at teaching me the basics.  Before I came to Magilligan, I got your book Freeing the Spirit and your CD and for a few months now I have been using them.  Honestly, itís the best thing I have discovered.  I am a much calmer person as well as being more flexible.  My family have noticed the difference in me too.

Patrick, HMP Magilligan 

I find I can use breathing exercises to stay calm allowing me to take better stock of the situation.  I enjoy my yoga class so much and will keep it up on my release.  It has given me some good coping strategies.

John, HMP Barlinnie 

For the first time Iím looking at the bigger picture. What did I really believe my future held for my family and those around me? I have never questioned my lifestyle before, never said ĎIs this the last time? I wonít be back. This isnít the life for me.

Jamie, HMP Parkhurst

Iím trying to do a lot of what is in your book, and itís making a difference. Iím living here, not in the past or future, and Iím sleeping so much better because of that. Iím more caring to others and have signed up to be a listener. That too is gradually bringing me peace.

Richard, HMP Forest Bank

I feel like a different person. I wish I had known about this when I was on the outside. Now I can honestly say I will never come to prison again.

Robert, HMP Wealstun

Yours were the first books Iíve ever read all the way through. Unreal for me. They have changed the way I think and feel. I feel like Iíve got more control over my feelings and I can focus more, sleep better and see people and things in a different light.

David, HMP Peterborough

Thank you for the tremendous amount of relief the pack of books gave me. I felt like a free man for a split second. That was priceless.

Pete, HMP Brixton

I know I did wrong but I have learnt that I can still love myself, as only by doing so can I fix the issues and love others. I am worth something after all. I apologise for rambling on so much but these letters with you have been the first time I have really been able to open up about my feelings.

Gareth, HMP Bullingdon

After doing a session of yoga with pranayma I have felt refreshed, a happy feeling inside myself and a feeling of contentment that Iíd done something good for myself, instead of just laying on my bed, being bored and thinking of sad things.

Mark, HMP Leeds

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

Tony, HMP Lewes

Now that my time here is nearing the end, I feel real hope for the future. My regret and sorrow for my past actions no longer sends me on a spiral of depression. Instead they help me reach for the light.

Will, HMP Grendon

For the first time in my life I feel free, and Iím in prison! I know it sounds weird but thatís the way I feel. Coming to prison was the best thing that ever happened to me because I now know whatís really important.

Warren, HMP Canterbury

Without your help, by sending me the books I have asked for, which have given me a completely different outlook on life, I would not have been able to train my mind to make me a better person. My outlook on everything, from watering my plants to building a brick wall, has changed.

Phillip, HMP Wandsworth

Iíve been suffering for weeks with a bad back but the exercises on the CD have done it wonders! The breathing exercises were out of this world and for the hour I was doing it, I wasnít in prison. I was free.

Carl, HMP The Mount

The practices help to de-stress and still the stormy seas into a clear, vast lake: sparkling! Maybe, just maybe, if I could continue to practise whilst out, I might stand a chance of never returning and break free once and for all of this in-and-out game of prison life.

Dave, HMP Shrewsbury

Since receiving your 90-minute CD last week Iíve done the session every day, sometimes twice. Throughout the day I really do feel so much better. I am sleeping better and crying less. Even other inmates on the wing have seen a difference in me in this short time.

Craig, HMP Forest Bank

I have been meditating and using the breathing techniques daily, and Iím really enjoying feeling calmer and less stressed and angry. I feel like a new person and a peace I never knew I was capable of, or recognised within myself. Even when I feel my old feelings return, which has only happened twice, I remember what I started to learn, and the new feelings Iíve experienced, and the negativity goes away again.

Danny, HMP Shrewsbury

The yoga lessons I have started here are helping me to calm my mind down.

Craig, HMP Forest Bank

We have Cherie as a yoga teacher and Iíve been attending her class. She is helpful, understanding and supportive. Iíve lost 4 stone!!! I feel wonderful.

Chris, HMP Littlehey

Yoga is helping me greatly with my diet too. I want to look after my body now. I want to understand it more. I want to find the inner me. Life feels different now.

Ian, HMP Forest Bank

Iím finally going to give something back after years of taking from the world around me. It feels good.

Paul, HMP Parkhurst

I have always been impressed with the way the PPT are very sensitive to the pressures of the prison environment, and have worked extremely hard to ensure that they work with staff and systems to achieve their ends, successfully avoiding conflict.  The work that the PPT does plays an important part in providing opportunities for prisoners to handle stress and come to terms with their imprisonment.

Luke Serjeant, Deputy Director Custody, West Midlands Region

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

One officer told me he really feels that he has found what was missing in his life.  After the workshop, he had the best nightís sleep he had had in ages.  The benefit of the practice is clear.

A prison governor, after a yoga and meditation workshop for officers.

The instruction in the yoga classes here on C wing has been the most informative and educational experience I have ever had. After the class the other day, all nine participants sat together and spoke freely with hope, awe, good spirit and agreement. Iíve never seen nine people agree on anything, especially in the nick.

Jimmy, HMP Bristol

I have woken up to myself and realised what I want for me, and my life upon release.

Neil, HMP Wakefield

  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

  Meditation practice is working for me. It helps me to be calm, relaxed and not get angry and irritated.

It helps me not react to people in a bad way and to take peopleís opinion on board.

Recently, when someone went a bit too far, instead of reacting to it I just walked away.

A prisoner, HMP Wymott

  A friend gave me one of your books. BOOM! It seemed like this was the natural thing Iíd been missing all these years. I immediately felt comfortable with it.

It has given me a clearer understanding of all the ways I was going wrong in life.

A prisoner, HMP Wayland
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