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Yoga lessons for prisoners

  • Wayne Caines, the national security minister, and Michael Weeks, the social development and sports minister, congratulate inmates who took part in a pilot yoga programme (Photograph supplied)

Inmates are being taught yoga to help them prepare for life after prison.

The first group to take part in the pilot programme were celebrated at a ceremony yesterday.

Shanell Vaughn, the lead yoga instructor, said: “The Peace Within: Prison Yoga Programme is committed to breaking the cycle of individual suffering and to offering people behind bars the opportunity to heal, grow and prepare for their return to our communities through the practice of yoga.”

Ms Vaughn worked with the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation to introduce the programme, which ran from January 22 to March 12.

She taught two classes of “trauma-sensitive yoga” per week at the St George’s Co-Educational Facility and the Prison Farm Facility.

Ms Vaughn explained: “As part of the pilot’s rehabilitative mission, each class is couched in the yogic principle of ‘ahimsa’ — meaning to do no harm to oneself or others, on or off the mat and many of the participants already report feeling more peaceful, more relaxed and healthier in their bodies.

“It is deeply rewarding for me to witness the eagerness of these men and women to learn, and to support them in discovering that they have the power within themselves to master their own mind, body and emotions through the peaceful practice of yoga.”

Five women and one female officer at the Co-Ed Facility and nine men and one male officer at the Right Living House took part.

Michael Weeks, social development and sports minister, and Wayne Caines, national security minister, attended yesterday’s completion ceremony.

Mr Weeks said: “For many of the participants this is the first time they’ve ever tried yoga and I understand that all of the inmates involved expressed hope that the programme would be extended beyond the eight week window.

He added: “I am very grateful to the dedicated staff at the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation for their ingenuity to facilitate this truly inspiring pilot programme.”