The Yoga Education in Prisons Trust is a registered charitable trust providing yoga and meditation education for prisoners, in prisons in New Zealand. The restrictive prison environment presents many challenges for inmates. It’s our experience that these challenges can be adjusted into opportunities to reflect, contemplate and internally process their attitudes and behaviours with the support of yoga and meditation techniques. Ultimately, with time, space and expert tuition, prisoners can embark on a journey of personal growth and wellbeing that would otherwise not have been realised
A safe supportive environment is created by experienced teachers that allows the prisoners to let go of fears and restrictive patterns, explore aspects of themselves that can enhance social integration.
- To provide education for prisoners and offenders in the practices and techniques of yoga and meditation with the purpose to enable personal change and development.
- To provide released prisoners with ongoing education and training in the practices and techniques of yoga and meditation.
Rather than trying to reform the prisoners, the program focuses on offering skills for self observation and reflection. The power of the yoga practices develops the individual’s capacity for relaxation, understanding of a healthy and balanced lifestyle and knowledge of how to manage everyday life challenges. With these skills the prisoners have the tools to transform their own lives.
How do we work?
Our organisation currently relies solely on funding from private donations.
At the moment a big focus is to deliver education to prisoners via our free six module Yoga Correspondence Course. The participants are mentored via snail mail by our team of affiliated teachers as they work through the course themselves but ideally they will also have access to a real live yoga class and teacher.
YEPT also offers a second educational project, the yoga class pilot project. The pilot project is delivered through a grant scheme or volunteer basis whereby the teacher applies for affiliation, and sometimes funding to operate the pilot project for a limited 3-6 months across maximum of 2 units per prison. All affiliated teachers have the YEPT’s confidence and have had at least 2 years teaching experience, and most have had specific trauma informed yoga training or plan to undergo this professional development as soon as possible. The teacher delivers the classes of the pilot project either on a part-funded or volunteer basis.
With interest in this project rapidly increasing and it’s presence now in most NZ prisons, we have had to be mindful of our resources and limit the length of the pilot project to 3-6 months so that each prison and other units can enjoy the opportunity.
We offer the yoga class pilot project so that prisons can experience the value of yoga classes, hear first hand feedback of the benefits from prisoners, guards and teachers, and see the impact the classes have not just on the prisoners, but the units they go back to, and in time, on whanau and communities they may be released to.
We do this with the view that the prisons will understand the immense value of the classes and continue on, through a long term and sustainable local contract, usually with the same affiliated teacher as the pilot project. YEPT will continue to support and offer mentorship to the affiliated teacher through this process and throughout the term of the independent contract. We are confident that our local affiliates will continue to add value exponentially and continue to deliver the excellence in Yoga education that YEPT is known for around NZ and further afield.
Meet our Board of Trustees
- Yoga enables prisoners to live with a greater sense of autonomy within prison. Setting the precedent for life out of prison.
- Through the practices of yoga the body and mind learn to relax and release tensions and greater insight is developed as to why we behave in a particular way.
- Yoga provides techniques that empower practitioners to work on their self development and change negative behaviour and thinking patterns.
- When students are more relaxed physically and mentally through the practices of yoga, this is then conducive to working with others on self development and change, in turn, contributing to overall harmony in the prison environment.