Besides our volunteer-led yoga classes, prisoners are able to enrol in a self study FREE six module Yoga Correspondence Course that can take anywhere between 7 – 12 months to complete.
The course involves both theory and practice and encourages prisoners to do a daily practice of the same techniques (postures, breathing and meditation) for a month. They then write in with their answers to 6 simple questions encouraging reflection and observation before they receive the next module. The course is designed to help prisoners go deeper, develop self awareness and establish a disciplined ‘home’ practice.
We have around 180 prisoners in most facilities around Aotearoa enrolled. Prisoners, after experiencing the benefits of the practices for themselves, pass them on to other prisoners who then write to us for the course. There are prisoners that we have never met who are getting up at 5am to find some space and quiet to practice yoga. One recently wrote to us saying he had gotten rid of his T.V so he could practice more yoga in his cell.
After the 6 modules are completed prisoners receive a certificate and an option to continue with the next phase in sharing their knowledge, by enrolling in the Peer Instructor Course, where they are mentored, to teach fellow prisoners. To do this they are required to find the students and a suitable time and space to teach them and we require a signature of support from their unit manager or PCO.
Prisoners teaching prisoners – it happens anyway, so this is a perfect, more formal guidance process.
Here’s how it works:
Teachers; If you have some students who are coming regularly for say….a couple of months…you know the ones…they really get into it and go quite deep quite quickly..and start asking for more reading material…maybe you have your own handouts you give to support your style of yoga? Great! Do it. Eventually you may be presented with a few what I call ‘stars’ and this is when we suggest they might like to enrol in the Course.
Now there’s two ways for this to be done;
1. Directly through the teacher which is our ideal. This means the teacher manages the whole thing. Firstly, with the permission of DoC they will answer the prisoners questions, support them by teaching the practices in the books as much as possible in their yoga class, mark the worksheets, then hand them the next modules. The teacher must enter the prisoner name and date they received the module into a secure G drive spreadsheet which means if the prisoner gets moved we have record of their history.
2. Or it is left it completely to the snail mail system (North Island is P.O Box 7365, Newtown, Wellington 6011 and South Island is P.O Box 5768, Moray Place, Dunedin).
We love it when DoC does the printing too as each course costs us approx $60 per prisoner in printing and postage.
YEPT also supplies volunteer-led yoga classes, distributes yoga manuals and course materials and mentors inmates through letter writing. We also partner with the Human Kindness Foundation in the USA and distribute their book, “We are all Doing Time” to prisoners all over the country.
The project is changing peoples lives from the inside. True freedom is an inside job.
For more information or to apply please write to;
Yoga Education in Prisons Trust, P.O Box 7365, Newtown, Wellington 6011