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Where are Yoga classes really needed?

yoga classes in prisonHave you picture yourself giving a Yoga class in a dangerous area of your city? Or in an organization for people with violence problems? Or even in prison?  These questions lead us to investigate how Yoga can help people with drug problems, suffering from sexual or alcohol abuse, traumatization etc. and how to start to call their attention to begin with Yoga.

We want to present you a really special project founded by James Fox M.A. that focuses its help in the teaching of Yoga and mindfulness in prisons. The “Prison Yoga project” is running for 8 eight years now, cooperating with several prisons in the U.S.A. and providing them with many benefits. We were really impressed by James endurance for a project that seemed so hopeless.

The most interesting point for the success of such a project seems to be the beginning. How can you attract prisoners in such a cruel and negative environment for a holistic philosophy like Yoga? Even more in the Western countries where the majority thinks that Yoga is for women, not for strong and rude men? James took care of several important points like putting the mats in a circle to create trust and a bigger privacy and left out the spiritual aspects at the beginning. Here you wouldn´t find any incense sticks or mantra chanting ;-) He concentrates more on the physical aspect and although he teaches meditation he doesn´t name it like this. Yoga classes are given twice a week and some of the inmates practice on their own every day. The mixture of asanas, meditation and pranayama enables step by step self- awarness and self-control in the daily life of the prisoners.

18767212 sThe goal of the project is to create mental clarity and develop mindfulness. By giving them a practice to handle sadness, despair or anger they get the chance to avoid violence. Reading their testimonials it seems like many prisoners react very positively towards the Yoga classes. They feel more connected with themselves and can control emotions as never before, they can feel inner peace, have a sense of self-worth and feel less stressed. In the opinion of James prisoners take Yoga more seriously than other people and the effect is bigger. Many are traumatized and suffer a permanent stress and fear. As they have so little they appreciate Yoga much more than others.

Personally I think that if every prison worldwide would decide to teach Yoga classes as part of their programs many of the internal problems could be reduced. The Prison Yoga project for example gets established in more and more prisons in the USA and until today James has taught 400 yoga teachers in the work with prisoners – numbers that show the success of his project.

Social Yoga programs like this can be found in other places as well. There is for example Yoga for homeless people on the street and I´m pretty sure that many other projects exist to help people that needs this kind of practice to cope with their lives in a peaceful way. People who don´t have the money to participate in a Yoga class in a studio or never had contact with Yoga before.

Have you ever taught Yoga in such a project or participated in such a class? What do you think about this kind of projects? Do you know other examples that are realized with success or failure? Is yoga really taught in the right places or is it only becoming a trend?

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