Why We Teach Yoga And Mindfulness In Prison
By James Fox M.A. Founder and Director
Prison Yoga Project
Most prisoners suffer from Complex Trauma, chronic interpersonal trauma experienced early in life such as abandonment, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and witnessing crime – including murder. We call this “original pain.”
These experiences, imprinted by the terrifying emotions that accompany them, are held deeply in the mind, and perhaps more importantly, in the body, with the dissociative effects of impulsive/reactive behavior, and tendencies toward drug and alcohol addiction as well as violence. Read More…
Learn More Hundreds of prisoners, those serving life sentences as well as men who have been released from prison, have been introduced to the self-transformative benefits of yoga and meditation through the Prison Yoga Project’s program at San Quentin.
Letters from prisoners
I used drugs and alcohol for many years, basically to kill the pain of life, therefore I never grew emotionally. Taking Yoga has cleared my mind and taken me back to those events/situations that I forgot about which were very painful. Now that I’ve remembered the past, I’ve been able to deal with it and move into the present and just love myself and who I am. – J.B., FCI Fort Dix, Fort Dix, New Jersey
I’m happy to have your book here with me, it’s been a great source of inspiration and reference for my personal practice. It’s also good to know that people share the idea that inmates can benefit from yoga and practices of mindful awareness. – B.D., Illinois State Prison, East Moline, Illinois
I appreciate that you are “giving” this book away to prisoners, as for one I am totally indigent and it’s a really good/healthy thing you are turning us onto. Plus I appreciate that you’ve made a book of yoga with the illustrations available. This is going to be very helpful for me. Thank you for your thoughtfulness from everyone in my situation – R.B., California Medical Facility, Vacaville, California
First thing I do every morning is sweep out my cell and practice the asanas I know. I believe your book can help me improve my practice and I welcome it and advice you are willing to offer, with open arms – T.M., Nebraska State Prison, Lincoln, Nebraska
“Some of us see that we need to take our rehabilitation into our own hands if we’re going to make it. I’m grateful folks like you are giving us some practical tools to work with.“ W.A.T., Mule Creek State Prison, Ione, California
The U.S. has only 4% of the world’s entire population. Yet we have 25% of the world’s prisoners. Something has gone terribly wrong with the American criminal justice system. Prison overcrowding breeds volatile living conditions which spike anxiety and stress, violence and addiction. Little effort is made to rehabilitate prisoners or address the fundamental issues that got them in trouble.
Over the past several years we’ve helped hundreds of incarcerated men and women transform their lives through our groundbreaking yoga and mindfulness programs. We’ve sent thousands of yoga books to prisoners all over the country, free of charge. The letters of gratitude we receive from prisoners are telling. The prisoners feel better. They experience inner peace and a sense of self-worth. Their gratitude is heartfelt. They realize that someone cares.
Thanks to yoga, prisoners begin to reconnect more deeply with themselves and others. Where love is so sorely lacking, the transformation is profound. Where suffering is so intense, word spreads. So, dear friends, this is where you come in. Karma Yoga – we ask you to share your practice. You may never set foot in a prison, but you can directly and profoundly influence a prisoner’s life.
Please help us take yoga into every American prison! Even the smallest donation can have a significant impact.
James Fox M.A.
Founder and Director
Recent Articles: Prison Yoga Project In The News
This is a paper with well researched issues of U.S. military veterans ending up in prisons.
The yoga of redemption a portrait of the prison yoga project May 2014
Yoga in Correctional Facilities: It’s All About the Love Jul 2013
Gritty Inspiration: Chicago Welcomes the Prison Yoga Project Jul 2013
Become a Prison Yoga Teacher May 2013
Interview with James Fox 2012
Interview with James Fox Aug 2012
Interview with James Fox sept 2012
Meditating Behind Bars: Why Yoga In Prisons May Mitigate Recidivism Dec. 13
Interview with Yoga in my school
Interview with James Fox
TIME.com Video: How Yoga Can Help in California’s Overcrowded Prisons May
Yoga at San Quentin: Prisoner Interviews and Photos by Anneke Lucas May 6
The following are facilities offering classes taught by Prison Yoga Project trained teachers:
Texas State Prison System:
Hughes Unit, Gatesville TX
Michael, Coffield, Powledge Units,
Tennessee Colony TX
Estelle Unit, Huntsville TX
NW Arkansas CCC Fayetteville, AR
Fairton FCI Fairton NJ
Phoenix FCI Phoenix AZ
Rikers Island/ New York City Jail
Northwest State Corr. Center St. Albans VT
Boulder County Jail, Boulder CO
Los Prietos Boys Camp Santa Barbara CA
Maryland Corr. Institution – Women, Jessup MD
Patuxent Institution, Corr Center, Jessup MD
Denver Women’s Corr. Facility, Denver CO
LA County Jail, Twin Towers Corr Facility
Travis County Correctional Complex, Austin TX
Mabel Bassett Corr. Center, McCloud OKBucks County Corr Facility, Bucks County PA
Scott County Jail, Davenport, Iowa
R.J. Donovan State Prison San Diego CA