Yoga is an alluring activity that is often overlooked as only for the affluent. However, that could be the furthest thing from the truth about yoga and it's teachings.
Yoga is a universal activity that promotes mental and physical well being, while also incorporating positivity and kindness. Each individual's yoga practice is different. However, the practice of yoga teaches individuals to connect their mind, body, and spirit to one, allowing their inner character to blossom and their heart to open. Practicing yoga is something every individual deserves, as it promotes various benefits, both physical and mental.
Maybe this is just me, but I have not stumbled upon many articles advocating for yoga in jails and prisons. While there are currently plenty of jails and prisons that offer yoga classes, I feel like the conversation of how it helps the inmates is often left out. I feel that it is so important to discuss how yoga could be beneficial in these settings. So, here are three reasons why I believe yoga classes should be available to ALL of those who have been justice impacted and how it could potentially help in lowering their recidivism.
Also, throughout this article, you’ll likely notice me using the term "justice impacted" instead of "prisoner" or "inmate." It’s something that a film direction, Tamara Perkins, used and advocated for when discussing her film, “Life After Life” (which you should all check out!), and it really stuck with me.
1. Addressing mental health in a new way.
Some research suggests that yoga aids in the regulation of emotions and promotes mental health, as it relaxes the nervous systems, brings you peace of mind, and releases tension from muscles. Many individuals who are justice impacted suffer from some type of mental health-related issues.
For instance, prisonpolicy.org reports that an estimated 1 in 7 federal prisoners and 1 in 4 jail inmates suffers from some type of psychological distress. This statistic highlights the importance of mental well-being among those in jails and prisons.
Yoga is a fantastic way to combat this issue. With being offered the option to practice yoga, justice impacted individuals would be working against psychological distress, lowering the rate of mental health related issues, and ultimately teaching them to relax and lift their self-esteem.
2. Providing care for inmates who have suffered trauma.
While yoga forces individuals to relax and promotes mental well being, it also helps with trauma-related issues.
Many individuals who have been justice impacted have experienced some type of trauma in their lifetime, with ample amount of research to back this up (do a google search!). Recently, some psychological studies have begun recognizing that the connection of mind and body practices, such as yoga, help alleviate some issues related to trauma.
Many organizations that have carried out studies related to this have coupled yoga with mindfulness and/or meditation practices. In my personal opinion, yoga is traditionally a mindfulness and meditation practice, as it connects the breath to the movements of the body and forces one to quiet their mind.
So, giving trauma impacted individuals, who are in prisons and jails, the opportunity to practice yoga can help to alleviate issues and can positively impact their lives, helping to rehabilitate them.
3. Controlling anger issues.
In short, yoga can make you chill.
Since yoga forces those who practice it to relax, there is no denying that it can aid in reducing anger. With many justice impacted individuals being in anger management or alternatives to violence classes, yoga can be a useful tool for them. Having an activity that promotes kindness and relaxes you is great to use against anger and violence.
Thus, individuals in jails and prisons are going to be the ones who are at the greatest need for this tool, and quite frankly, they deserve it.
I strongly believe that the recidivism rates of those who are practicing yoga can be lowered. Call me crazy, but yoga is a calming exercise that allows an individual’s heart to open and connect with themselves in a way that they probably could never do otherwise.
It heals and helps you grow as a person. With many justice impacted individuals suffering from trauma and mental health issues, yoga allows healing, and healing is a major factor in the rehabilitation process. Not to mention, it is a tool against violence and anger. There have been a few scholarly articles written in which they suggest that mindfulness/meditation and yoga techniques should be used in prisons and jails, as well to help with rehabilitation.
So, supporting the use of yoga in prisons and the obvious potential to lower recidivism rates and aid in healing among those who practice. I personally believe more should be examined between the connection of yoga and recidivism rates, as it makes sense in theory that it would be lowered with the use of a steady yoga practice.
I understand that not everyone thinks that those who have been justice impacted deserve the opportunity to better themselves, but don't let anger win. I think if you read this, you probably understand that these individuals are human and deserve the chance to be rehabilitated and helped.
Many of these individuals are going to get out of prison someday, and it is best to have them connected with their mind, body, and spirit so they can better their lives and be productive in their communities.