The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation

The kind of meditation the Trust recommends is silent and breath-based, done while sitting still, focusing attention on the breathing. Yoga is a practice of using the breath, body and attention in a variety of postures and movements to help relieve physical and mental tension by bringing the systems of the body into harmony. It provides perfect preparation for seated meditation.

Yoga and meditation as the Trust recommends them can be practiced by people of any faith, and any physical ability.

People in prison:

  • Have reduced impulsiveness
  • Feel less angry and aggressive
  • Sleep better
  • Are less prone to taking drugs
  • Are more ready to take up other educational activities
  • Develop self discipline and concentration, often for the first time
  • Find something in themselves they like. They feel less isolated and more inclined to socialise, which prepares them well for resettlement

Staff:

  • Manage their stress better
  • Become more tolerant
  • Are sharper on the wings
  • Experience some peace and deep relaxation, leaving them refreshed and prepared for their demanding work

We have a wealth of evidence to support the idea that yoga and meditation in a prison setting is helpful.

We have collaborated with Oxford University on two pieces of research around yoga and meditation in a prison setting. The first showed that a ten-week programme of yoga and meditation in a prison setting will reduce emotional distress and improve impulse control. The second showed that these effects are progressive, and the more the person practices, the stronger the effects will be.

 

Each edition of our newsletters features a collection of such stories, as does our book, Peace Inside: a prisoner’s guide to meditation. Below are some of our favourite quotes from the prison community.

“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

“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.

“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 people’s opinion on board.
Recently, when someone went a bit too far, instead of reacting to it I just walked away.”

A prisoner, HMP Wymott

“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

“For the first time I’m 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 ‘Is this the last time? I won’t be back. This isn’t the life for me.”

Jamie, HMP Parkhurst