Autumn Meditation Retreat for Prison Yoga Teachers and Letter Writers

Carmelite Retreat Centre, Boars Hill, Oxford, 16th – 18th October, 2020 – cost tbc

This retreat, held mostly in silence, offers a chance to develop your meditation practice so you feel more confident in offering it as part of your teaching. Talks on the practice as well as one-to-one meetings with the facilitators provide the support you need for the extended periods of practice over the weekend. Meditation retreats are an excellent way to establish a regular practice or to revive or strengthen it, so we welcome teachers who have attended in previous years, as well as those who have not yet been. First priority is given to teachers working in prisons, IRCs, secure hospitals or bail hostels, and to volunteer letter writers. We hope you can join us.

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


Race and Prison – Training Day

Summertown Church Hall, Oxford, Sunday 29th March, 2020 – £10

This day is for yoga and meditation teachers and cover teachers already working in prisons, secure hospitals, IRCs and bail hostels, or those about to begin. What is it about our society and criminal justice systems that means a disproportionate number of people of colour wind up in prison? What is life inside like for them? What kinds of issues around ethnicity do we need to be aware of, so we are most effective in our teaching?

Part of this day aims to explore those questions and deepen our understanding of race and prison, with the help of Dr Coretta Phillips, Associate Professor of Social Policy at LSE. Her research interests are in the field of race, ethnicity, crime, criminal justice and social policy. She is involved in a study with minority ethnic young people, including those involved in crime but not detected by the police, those deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system, and those uninvolved in crime. She is particularly interested in why some ethnic groups are easily caught up in the criminal justice system while others are not. Coretta’s previous research in the UK has included work on ethnicity and social relations in men’s prisons and institutional racism. Her book, The Multicultural Prison was shortlisted for the Radio 4 Thinking Allowed / British Sociological Association Award for Ethnography in 2014.

After Coretta’s presentation and discussion with us in the morning, we’ll have time to share the challenges of our classes and also what is working well. We’ll practice asana and seated meditation together and enjoy a bring-and-share lunch. There will be ample time 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 or Victoria on 01865 512521


2019 Christmas Cards On Sale

This year’s cards come in packs of 5 each of 2 designs, both drawn by a friend at HMP Grendon.

One card is a snowman yogi, the other is a winter woodland scene. The inside is blank for your message. The cards measure 144 x 103 mm.

Each pack, including postage, is £5.

Please email all@theppt.org.uk to place an order.

snowman doing yoga christmas card

Teaching Yoga In Prison – 5 Day Residential Course

22nd – 26th June, 2020, Carmelite Retreat Centre, Boars Hill, Oxford – £495

This 5-day residential course, designed and run by the Prison Phoenix Trust (and accredited as a British Wheel of Yoga module) is open to all teachers, and equips you with the knowledge and confidence to teach in prison. The Carmelite Retreat Centre is on the quiet grounds of a priory, with views overlooking Oxford. We will explore in depth the issues, challenges and rewards of working behind bars. Content includes: security, professional boundaries, teachers as role models, young offenders, female prisoners, sex offenders, drugs and alcohol, the life and work of prison officers, applying for prison teaching. Daily meditation and yoga practice are integral to the course. For accreditation, teachers must later observe a prison class and be assessed teaching in prison. Cost includes room, board and BWY admin fee.

Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll put you on our list to receive an application form when the process starts in September. The closing date for applications is 14th February 2020.

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


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.


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


Officer Raises Marathon Money for Prison Yoga

Chris Herbert, who ran an ultra-marathon for us last year, took on the London Marathon this time around, his sixth time in the race. Chris started running over thirty years ago, while in the forces. He has been going to the staff yoga class at Spring Hill Prison for the past three years, and says yoga has been a huge help with his running training.

If you want to sponsor Chris, have a look at his fundraising page here – or you can send a donation direct to us.

We are so grateful to Chris for helping us, just as we are to all the prison officers who support our classes in prison. Whether it’s running a marathon for us or sorting out attendance lists and rooms for our classes, we couldn’t offer yoga and meditation to people inside without the work and kindness of all prison staff.


Tigger Ramsay-Brown

We are very sad to report the news of the death of one of our trustees, Tigger Ramsay-Brown, on the 3rd of December 2016 aged 94. Tigger was the sister of our founder, Ann Wetherall, and served as a trustee from early in the charity’s life right up until her death. Tigger lived a rich and exciting life, mainly in India and the UK. For many years she worked for Oxfam, where her passion and energy enabled so many people to be helped. We will remember Tigger as a forthright, fun and deeply compassionate woman, and a beloved friend to the Trust.