Prison Yoga Project


The Prison Yoga Project was founded by James Fox in 2002. Its mission is to offer life-changing yoga and mindfulness programs to inmates throughout the world. The project provides inmates with tools to reduce stress, develop self-control, promote overall mental health, and support personal transformation through effective yogic practices.

The Prison Yoga Project helps inmates learn skills such as how to gain better control over their emotions and handle challenges that come up in prison. It also teaches self-care opportunities that help build strength and well-being so they can make healthier choices once they reenter society. Through this work, the project seeks to create a larger ripple effect of positive change – both in prisons and surrounding communities.

Many correctional facilities around the world are teaming up with the Prison Yoga Project to provide mindfulness training for its staff and incarcerated populations. They are developing inmate yoga teaching support groups, introducing trauma-sensitive yoga classes, building meditation centers within facility walls as well as providing one-on-one psychology & health counseling for prisoners. The project also offers workshops on restorative justice & therapeutic philosophy for staff and visitors alike. Today, more than 300 dedicated volunteer professionals are committed to helping us bring life changing methods further into the corrections system each year.

The Benefits of Prison Yoga

The Prison Yoga Project (PYP) was first established in 2001 to provide yoga classes to individuals incarcerated in correctional facilities. According to PYP, “research has shown that there is a correlation between practicing yoga and improvement in both physical and mental health, which enables inmates to develop positive coping skills and build emotional resilience.”

Psychologically, yoga has been shown to help alleviate stress, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve self-awareness, and increase feelings of connectedness. Physiologically, practicing yoga increases flexibility and strength while improving balance and coordination. Along with this, people who practice yoga have improved cardiovascular functioning due to better posture that improves blood circulation.

Additionally, the experience of being able to take an internal journey through their practice of poses can provide individuals with an emotional outlet for dealing with difficult experiences related to incarceration. Through participating in these classes, inmates can begin to recognize patterns of behavior they’d like to break while connecting to powerful resources such as compassion and inner strength which could help them during the healing process. Furthermore, PYP also mentions that regular attendance of classes has been linked with increased personal/interpersonal accountability among inmates using principles learned within their practice such as respect for others’ boundaries.

Types of Yoga Used

The Prison Yoga Project, which is dedicated to providing yoga classes in correctional facilities throughout the United States, uses a variety of techniques and styles of yoga. When choosing what types of yoga to offer, PYP considers the facility’s population characteristics and culture, as well as an individual’s fitness level, experience with yoga, meditation, and physical abilities.

Depending on the populations served in each correctional facility, PYP will tailor its approach accordingly. Some programs focus more on developing breathing practices and relaxation postures that can help participants manage anxiety and stress. Others introduce more rigorous physical postures to engage individuals who have a higher level of interest in physical exercise.

One type of yoga that is used often by PYP is Vinyāsa flow—a dynamic practice incorporating Bodhayaṃ (universal principles), Sanskrit mantras and pranayama breathing exercises—which has been particularly effective for fostering physical discipline that helps participants stay connected and maintain concentration during challenging periods in their lives. Other popular forms include yin yoga which emphasizes passive stretching and mental clarity; Hatha yoga which encourages proper muscular alignment; Chair yoga or Gentle trauma-sensitive therapy, ideal for elder care providers or rehabilitation centers; and Kundalini Meditation which is an ancient system that focusses on joining body movements with breathwork to release stored emotions. All these different types are meant to be applicable to any range of gender beliefs or physical abilities—from those with intense injuries to those recovering from acute mental health issues.

Regardless of the type chosen, conclusive research evidence confirms the efficacy of all forms of modalities when practiced regularly over a period of time. Studies have shown that participants have experienced tangible benefits such as a decrease in anxiety levels within 6-8 weeks while also improving participant’s sleep quality leading to improved moods overall in prison facilities where it is offered.

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Impacted Communities

The Prison Yoga Project was founded in 2006 with the mission to use yoga as a transformative and healing tool—providing individuals impacted by the criminal justice system with both skills and resources to support physical, psychological, and emotional health. Over the years, they have grown into a global non-profit, establishing yoga programs across dozens of jails, prisons, juvenile halls, reentry centers and community-based organizations around the world.

As a result of their work, thousands of people have been exposed to and benefited from trauma-informed yoga practices each year. Many of these people are living in underserved communities that lack access to quality and affordable mental health care options. Additionally, prisoners often lack methods to reduce their stress levels due to the lack of exercise activities available within correctional institutions. Prison Yoga Project works diligently to bridge this gap by providing regular classes with certified instructors that teach trauma-sensitive poses along with mindfulness meditations throughout maximum security prisons in California.

Furthermore, it has been found that participation in prison yoga classes helps build confidence and resilience among incarcerated individuals as well as facilitating better coping skills when dealing with stressful situations both inside and outside of prison walls. Other positive outcomes include improved sense of self worth; reduced anxiety; decreased violent behavior; improved communication skills; greater understanding for victims; increased empathy for others; ability to connect easily with convicted people after release; reduced recidivism rates; improved overall mental health care leading fewer imprisonments due to mental illness; increased re-socialization efforts once released back into society; increased opportunities for peer assistance while within custody or parole systems; educational programming directed at assisting post-prison reintegration into society upon release completing full sentence requirements.

Inspirational Stories

The Prison Yoga Project has changed the lives of many inmates in a positive and transformative way. Through this project, prisoners in correctional facilities all over the country have discovered the calming and centering power of yoga and have been able to create new paths for themselves. Here are just a few of the inspiring stories that have come out of the Prison Yoga Project:

Billy was an inmate serving time for petty theft at a Texas prison. After participating in weekly sessions with the Prison Yoga Project, he found new hope, strength, and resilience within himself. His yoga practice enabled him to develop better control over his emotions and gave him a newfound sense of purpose. By helping teach other inmates how to use yoga to find inner peace, Billy was able to successfully transition back into society when his sentence was up.

Lorena was sentenced to 20 years for an armed robbery gone wrong. When she joined the Prison Yoga Project she felt so hopeless that it seemed impossible for her future prospects ever to improve. However, through her daily practice of yoga she began to gain greater knowledge about herself and gain mental clarity which helped set her free from past traumas—setting her on a path toward healing and success after release.

Muhammad had been in prison since he was 15-years old and struggled with substance abuse due to unresolved childhood trauma. Through yoga he experienced profound realizations about life–transforming both his outlooks on life as well as his attitude towards himself and others–renewing his determination and ability to rebuild his life after release once his sentence ended.

The stories like these that come out of the Prison Yoga Project serve as powerful reminders of how yoga can bring transformation even when faced with challenging circumstances or complex emotional issues that can often land people behind bars in the first place. The project is proving that with dedication one can find tranquility and strength in even the most adverse situations—providing countless inmates with brighter futures than they could possibly have imagined before their experience with this incredible program!

Practical Tips for Practicing Yoga

1. Before beginning your practice, take some time to find a space that is comfortable and free from distractions. Consider bringing your own mat or blanket and any other props that can help create a relaxing atmosphere. A yoga block, strap or bolster will all come in handy for postures.

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2. Begin with basic postures like seated, standing and lying down before moving on to more advanced poses. Start with warming up exercises such as sun salutations, twists, stretches and leg raises to get the body prepped for more strenuous activities.

3. Try out different breathing techniques and visualize yourself in the physical postures to get a better understanding of how each pose should be practiced correctly while avoiding injury or strain. Pay attention to cues and only do what feels comfortable (not what looks impressive).

4. Balance your practice with relaxation techniques including deep breathing, visualization, mantra repetition and meditation as well as more active postures in order to achieve both strength building and stress relief benefits of yoga simultaneously.

5. Mix it up by incorporating different types of poses such as basic vinyasa sequences, restorative yoga, power yoga moves or even one-on-one lessons with an instructor depending on access available in prison settings at the time of practice.

6 .Last but not least – keep it fun! Experiment with playful variations or modify individual postures according to personal preferences in order to make it enjoyable for both body and mind during practice sessions regularly over time without feeling uninspired or quitting prematurely due to boredom associated with repetitive routines!

Opportunities for Participation

The Prison Yoga Project is a non-profit that provides health and wellness education through mindfulness and yoga to people behind bars in prisons and jails throughout the U.S. They focus on trauma-informed care and use bridges of understanding to bring awareness, peace, and humanity to those who are surrounded by uncertainty.

Getting involved with the Prison Yoga Project is easy! There are many ways to donate your time or money. You can donate directly, or you can volunteer at one of their instructor trainings across the country. You can also participate in fundraisers for their programs, write letters of support for incarcerated individuals, attend events to learn more about prison reform, or even start your own Prison Yoga Project chapter in your local area. Each way of involvement offers its own unique opportunities, ranging from hands-on teaching to administrative assistance. Additionally, anyone can easily contact the organization via email or phone to learn how they might be able to help out or find out more information about involvement in any other capacity.


The Prison Yoga Project has had a profoundly positive impact on many prisoners and incarcerated individuals in the United States. It provides an opportunity to practice yoga while in prison, which can help individuals manage stress levels and create a sense of peace and well-being. Other benefits found with the program have included healthier physical health, improved mental well-being, higher quality sleep, reduced reactive anger, and strengthened resiliency.

It is important for us to support this important work by donating money and resources to the Prison Yoga Project. We can also look for volunteer opportunities with local organizations that offer yoga and mindfulness classes in prison or jail as well as seek out opportunities to teach our own classes within prisons. Additionally, we can also advocate for more comprehensive reentry planning services for inmates who are set to be released from prison so that they have access to adequate housing and employment options upon their release. Every individual deserves a second chance; the Prison Yoga Project is one of the many ways we can help those who are struggling behind bars find hope.

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