Cambridge University hears impact of yoga in prison

Cambridge University’s forum Contemplation: Theory / Practice heard last week evidence of the effectiveness of yoga and meditation in prison from The Prison Phoenix Trust Director Selina Sasse.

The forum, which is a network of the university’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, brings together the ideas, history and application of contemplative traditions from around the globe, exploring a rich diversity of theories and practices united around a particular set of characteristics. 

In her talk, Selina highlighted the theory, evidence and experience of the value of meditation and yoga for vulnerable people in prisons.  This included how yoga improves physical and mental health, emotional resilience, self-esteem and a profound sense of connection and how neuroscience validates the experiential evidence from those The PPT supports.  Continue Reading


Mindful yoga boosts mental wellbeing of women in prison

Latest impact data from The Prison Phoenix Trust finds 82% of women who took part in Mindful Yoga courses in prison experienced an improvement in mental wellbeing considered ‘meaningful’ by psychologists.

Women arriving for their first Mindfulness session at a prison in the South of England were unsure what to expect. “I want to keep my mind and body fit,” said one. “I want to be able to relax,” said another.

With age ranges from 20s to 60s, they brought with them a variety of aches and injuries, and also life experiences. A high proportion of imprisoned women have histories of trauma and abuse.

Mindfulness and Yoga are being offered as an accessible way for people in prison to learn practical ways to manage stress and anxiety, build emotional resilience and to strengthen overall physical and mental wellbeing, essential for rehabilitation and reducing reoffending.

A women’s yoga class run by The Prison Phoenix Trust

The Prison Phoenix Trust has run 5 Mindfulness courses in 2 prisons over the last 7 months and used the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental WellBeing Scale (WEMWBS) to measure changes in participants’ mental wellbeing at the start and end of their courses. Continue Reading


We are recruiting: could you be our Treasurer?

The Prison Phoenix Trust is recruiting a new voluntary position of TREASURER to join our Board of Trustees.

Who we are

We are the leading yoga charity in the UK and Ireland, with 35 years experience sharing meditation and yoga with people in prison.

We offer personal support to prisoners and prison staff through teaching, mentoring, peer-support and specialist resources. We work with people of any faith or none, bringing hope, healing and second chances to people in prison

Who we need

Are you a qualified finance professional who would enjoy sharing responsibility for the strategic direction and governance of the charity?

You would lead on monitoring the financial administration of the charity and report to the Board regarding its financial health, working closing with our Finance Manager who is responsible for day-to-day financial management.

Time commitment

Continue Reading


Sad loss of our inspirational patron Erwin James

 

Erwin James presenting A Radio 4 Appeal for The PPT

It is with great sadness The Prison Phoenix Trust has learnt of the death of its long-time patron Erwin James. He was a wise, compassionate and intelligent man, who overcame great challenges in childhood to become an inspirational writer and advocate for people in prison.

Director of The Prison Phoenix Trust Selina Sasse said:

“Like many PPT friends, I was deeply moved to hear Erwin talk, particularly how tragic his childhood was and how his young adult life had unravelled. He did so much in his life to help others and we were fortunate that he chose to include our work. His death was very sudden and out of the blue. We are deeply saddened and shocked.” 

Erwin told his extraordinary life story in 3 memoirs, A Life Inside, The Home Stretch, and Redeemable. Born in Somerset in 1957, he lost his mother at the age of seven and his father turned to alcohol and violence. By the age of 10, Erwin was sleeping rough and committing crimes to survive. 

He went to prison in 1984 with a life sentence. While he could read, he wasn’t educated, but he quickly began making the most of his time and took all the courses he could to develop himself. While in HMP Nottingham, he attended his first yoga class. He later told us: Continue Reading


Prison Yoga Update 2023

From The Prison Phoenix Trust Director

This year we have met and grown the engagement with our support by expanding the ways we help and validating what we do.   

We have done this by: 

  • meeting HMPPS’ strategy for new digital support, through enabling people in 67 prisons to follow meditation and yoga instruction on laptops in their cells
  • in 3 prisons people can watch our filmed yoga classes on prison TV and in more than 100 prisons they can listen to Freedom Inside – The PPT’s yoga and meditation programme broadcast three times a week on National Prison Radio. 

 Our one to one guidance continues to be at the heart of what we do with:  Continue Reading


Great loss of poet and patron Dr Benjamin Zephaniah

It is with great sadness we learn of the death of writer and poet Dr Benjamin Zephaniah who was a valued and beloved patron of The Prison Phoenix Trust. 

For over two decades, Benjamin advocated for prisoners – and the work of our charity bringing hope and healing through meditation and yoga.

He represented the Trust’s work offering non-judgemental support for the spiritual development of people in prison, whatever their faith or none, on the radio and at public events. His poem, ‘In-exhale’, was written specifically to help people in prison and we share it below.

Benjamin joined The Prison Phoenix Trust at many events over the years, perhaps most memorably at HMP Wormwood Scrubs in 2005 for the launch of the book Freeing The Spirit in which his poem ‘In-exhale’ was first published. This book has inspired more 20,000 prisoners to practise meditation and yoga since it published and is still one of the most requested at the charity.

He also wrote the forward to the book Peace Inside: A Prisoner’s Guide to Meditation, drawing on his own experiences of borstal and prison. “If you’re finding it hard in prison,” he wrote, “and very few people don’t find it hard – meditation is something that will make a real difference. Meditation is a way of not just surviving but thriving in prison because it taps into that natural intelligence that we all have.” Continue Reading


New trustees appointed to The Prison Phoenix Trust

Three new trustees with a wide range of skills have joined the team at The Prison Phoenix Trust (The PPT).

Joyce Borgs, Judith Unwin and Liz Wheen have taken on this voluntary role to share their expertise with The PPT. With experience in digital technology, prisoner education and fund-raising, they will help support the charity as it faces challenges from escalating prisoner numbers and changes to the justice system.

The PPT director, Selina Sasse, warmly welcomed the new trustees. ‘I feel my wishes have been granted with these appointments and I’m excited to be working with each one of them,’ she said. ‘It is a credit to The PPT that we now have an 11 person strong Board of talented, kind and dedicated trustees to work with us in this critical role, at a difficult time for the charity sector.’ Continue Reading


Hollywood star Jeremy Irons applauds charity award

Hollywood star Jeremy Irons has sent his congratulations to The Prison Phoenix Trust on winning Charity of the Year in the Om Yoga Awards.

Jeremy, who lives in Oxfordshire, is patron of the Oxford-based charity, which supports yoga and meditation in prisons across the UK and Ireland.

He said: “I’m so proud to be a Patron of the Prison Phoenix Trust and for them being honoured with this Award.” 

‘In these days when our prison system is suffering such dysfunction as to be almost unmanageable, one bright ray of hope is the work of the Trust. Working with both inmates and staff, using yoga and meditation techniques to lower the inevitable stress brought about by their situation, the Trust offers hope, a life beyond their mental and physical confines, and for the inmates offers a solid framework to carry with them on their release. Continue Reading


Winners of Charity of the Year

 

The Prison Phoenix Trust has been voted Favourite Yoga Charity at the largest yoga event in Europe.

At the OM Yoga Show at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, OM Yoga Magazine editor Martin Clark presented the prize to a delighted Selina Sasse, director of The PPT.

“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said Selina. “It’s a real tribute to the hard work and skill of yoga teachers working in prisons. We are enormously grateful to everyone who voted for us and excited about how this will help us to raise the profile of our charity at quite a tough time in prisons.”

The PPT was up against 10 other charities competing for this prestigious prize in its first year. Decided by public vote, the award is in recognition for the 35 years of work by this small, Oxford-based charity that supports rehabilitation through meditation and yoga in prisons, young offenders institutions and secure hospitals across the UK and Ireland.

Also at the show, former prisoner Paul succeeded in performing a 30-minute headstand – an amazing feat, which was sponsored to raise money for the charity.

Paul said: “The Prison Phoenix Trust got me through some very dark times. Yoga and meditation are still supporting me to this day and I wanted to give something back.” Continue Reading


2023 Festive Cards on Sale

 

 

This year’s cards come in packs of 10, designed by Reg for The Prison Phoenix Trust. The 10 pack is a selection of three designs.

The inside is blank for your message. The cards measure 144 x 103 mm.

Each pack, including postage, is £6.

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