What’s it like teaching yoga in prisons?

RYT-200 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher. Erica started practicing yoga daily to bring herself flexibility, strength and balance. She enjoys doing yoga on the mat in the room, in nature and at the sea side. Erica brings yoga from the mat to everyday life and it helps her to be balanced, non judgmental and to learn new things. She likes learning and challenges, and encourages students to challenge themselves, learn new asanas, practice and enjoy every minute of yoga.
Yoga in Prisons Trust

Supporting NZ prisoners to practice yoga

by Adhyatma, Satyananda Yoga Teacher and author of Broken Warriors – Reaching out to prisoners with yoga

[Editor’s Note: The Yoga Lunchbox is proud to support the Yoga Education in Prisons Trust through offering free listings of  YEPT fundraising events.

Plus $1 from every print copy of Forty Days of Yoga goes to YEPT.

It’s awesome work they’re doing! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.]

We thought it was time for an update on the activities of Yoga Education in Prisons Trust (YEPT).

YEPT has really taken off in recent times. We now have Satyananda Yoga teachers bringing yoga and meditation to several prisons throughout New Zealand.

Our objective is to share Satyananda Yoga with prisoners so that they may have the tools and practices for their own inner transformation and wellbeing.

As teachers and practitioners of yoga we know how it worked for us personally and we’ve seen how it has saved many lives.

The YEPT teachers and trustees strongly believe that every person in society has the right to access these gems of knowledge…and not just the middle sector of society in the yoga studios.

Not everyone can afford a $20 yoga class right?

You may notice that it’s not until you really need to make some change in your life that you put in the effort and that’s what makes yoga in prisons work so well.

Once a person is incarcerated it rapidly becomes very apparent that the change needs to be an internal one just as much as an external one….when you are locked down for so many hours a day that old monkey mind unveils itself without abandon.

Here’s what two of our teachers have to say about their experience of teaching yoga in prisons:

‘In Auckland men’s prison I teach a weekly class to men who voluntarily attend the class and the feedback is really positive from the prisoners, the guards, the therapists and the prison manager too.

I’m particularly impressed how these aspiring yogis sit so still in meditation and, as for many people, yoga nidra is also a favourite practice. Prisoners have reported to me that they sleep better, are more aware of their breathing and feel more calm and peaceful throughout the day.

I’m seeing that yoga provides real rehabilitation that serves these prisoners well while inside and after their release when they re-engage in the community.

I share with the prisoner’s stories about ashrams and encourage them that in some ways they can also make their own prison environment like an ashram and support each other in their own practice.

The prisoners also show an interest in the philosophy of yoga and we have inspiring discussions about how to apply these yogic principles in order to live a more peaceful and balanced life.’ – Brendon Sakey

‘Today was the last yoga session of my first six week block teaching inside. The guys brought in yoga books that they borrowed from the library so that’s got to tell you something – its working having yoga in the prison.

Seeing the guys relaxed and willing to learn is amazing, one guy said, “Oohh Miss I was really in the zone then”, when I said something to him.

I’m not sure who gets the most out of these classes, me or the guys. I feel so grateful to be able to pass on what I have been taught and what the guys are teaching me is cool. We all deserve this form of nurturing – we all have so much to learn. The students have asked for a “Part Two” course and one even said that may one day he would be the teacher and I would be in his class.’ – Tracy Collins

Thanks to everyone who shows an interest in YEPT. We are a grassroots charitable trust and we do rely on support, both financially and also through volunteers who give their time and energy. We appreciate your support in anyway.

We have some fundraising events for YEPT coming up around NZ this year:

  • On May 19th at Youthline House in Ponsonby, Auckland at 5:30pm we will have a yoga class followed by a movie screening of Dharma Brothers.
  • On May 21st the Dunedin Yoga Studio will be hosting a Dhamma Brothers movie night followed by Chai and Cake. 7.30 – 9pm. 492 Moray Place. Suggested donation $15.
  • In Raglan on May 26th there will be a yoga session and DVD Day. 3.30pm at Raglan Community Arts Centre Theatre. 
  • Dhamma Brothers is an inspiring film about meditation in prisons in the USA.

These nights raise funds for YEPT so they may continue their work in prisons in New Zealand covering costs such as travel expenses, insurance, and administration. We also provide a free instructional booklet for the prisoners. The money raised from our fundraisers will go towards printing more of these booklets and working on the next two booklets.

Please come and bring your friends if you’re in the area.

Please see the YEPT Facebook page and YEPT website for more details and feel free to make contact with us.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” –  Nelson Mandela

Here is another wonderful way that you can support our work.

Most of you know Kara-Leah – she’s recently released her book Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice, and is donating $1 from each print copy of the book to YEPT.

However, starting today (Tuesday May 21) at 8:31am she’s also running a 36 hour Pay-What-You-Can Promotion for the Forty Days of Yoga Multi-Format Electronic Package – which includes a Kindle, ePub and PDF editions of the book. 

Why? Because she’s heard the following from a few people;

‘I can’t wait to buy your book, as soon as I get some money together.’

Best of all, Kara-Leah is also going to donate $10 to YEPT from everyone who pays $25 or more for Multi-Format Electronic Package

If you would love to own the book in an electronic format, but just don’t have the spare cash right now. This is your time. Click this link. Decide what you can afford. Type in that amount. Download the book.

Sweet. Here’s what’s also sweet.

If Kara-Leah tops $1000 in sales of the Multi-Format Electronic Package in this 36 hour period, she’ll donate another 10% of the total to YEPT.

So if you have yoga friends you think want this book, please forward this on to them. The more sales we do in this 36 hour period, the more money YEPT will receive. It’s a great opportunity for us to raise money, and our profile.

Those 36 hours start now, at 8.31am Tuesday May 21st here in NZ, and finish on Wednesday May 23rd at 8:31pm.

So if you’d like to buy the Forty Days of Yoga Multi-Format Electronic Edition… now is the moment. Click here. Or, to read more about the book and the package, head over to the sales landing page here.

Finally, if you’re don’t want to buy anything, but you’d like to donate directly to YEPT, here’s where to do that.

Forty Days of Yoga, print and multi-format electronic editions on sale now.

Update from Editor: 

6 hours into the 36 Hours: Thank you to the 12 people who have paid what they can afford and bought the M-F E Download of Forty Days of Yoga. So far we’ve done $84 in sales, at an average of $7 per sale. We’ve raised $10 for YEPT. We’ll keep you posted as it changes.

9 hours: 14 people. $139 sales, an average of $9.90 per sale. We’ve now raised $30 for YEPT.

Related posts:

  1. May 19 – August 3: Nationwide, fundraising events for the Yoga In Prisons Trust The Yoga Education in Prisons Trust have a variety of…
  2. Help Yoga Education in Prisons Trust fund a free yoga manual for prisoners I drive up to Rimutaka every Tuesday and spend a…
  3. Yoga in Prisons Trust charity recipient for Global Mala NZ 2010 by Kara-Leah Grant, Musings from the Mat It’s been a power-packed day…

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