Freedom From Within
Yoga for Health & Wellbeing Training Course
A self-study correspondence course teaching the skills of yoga, meditation and mindfulness.
Available free to all prisoners in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Yoga Education In Prisons Trust is proud to present our new and updated yoga correspondence for prisoners course.
We have been providing the course to prisoners in Aotearoa since 2016, with a course that was kindly gifted to us by Seva Unite a South African yoga in prisons organisation. In 2019 we began a rewrite of the course in order to better reflect our New Zealand culture and values.
The course has been written by senior yoga teachers within Aotearoa, in conjuction with a dedicated YEPT taskforce and with professional literacy advice. All of the graphics, design, artwork and photography is made and created in Aotearoa.
The course is avaiable from May 2020, to find out how we deliver the course and how you can help please keep reading below.
How does the course work?
The course is made up of four levels. Each level is made up of 3 course books & 3 workbooks.
Level one – Foundation Yoga Course
Level two – Progressive Yoga Course
Level three – Expansion Yoga Course
Level four – Yama Yoga Course
Each course contains learning on yoga, meditation, breathwork and deep relaxation. The students are given a physical yoga practice, breathwork practice and meditation/relaxation practice in each module. Each module also contains information on yoga theory, philosophy and principles.
Intertwined with the yogic knowledge is information on anatomy and physiology, where students get to learn about all the systems of the human body.
The modules include many self-care techniques and aim to help students build self-awareness. Though the course may be based in yoga, it is really a journey of discovery of the self. Students will benefit from the wisdom of the yogic teachings on a mental emotional and spiritual level, whilst at the same time benefit immensely from the physical practices taught throughout the course. Each module and each course builds upon the other.
The power of the yoga practices develops the individual’s capacity for self-reflection, it helps them develop an understanding of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, it empowers them with knowledge and real life accessible tools for living a more positive and meaningful life.
With these skills, prisoners have the ability to transform their own lives. We have hundreds of pieces of feedback telling us how much this course has impacted and brought positive change into their lives, how it improves their relationships with others, and most importantly their relationship with themselves. For without self-reflection without self-love and honouring of the self, it is very difficult to give that to others. So many men and women tell us how much courage they have gained from doing the course, how it helps them with depression, anxiety and ptsd.
The benefits of yoga and meditation are well researched, it is a wonderful practice that needs nothing other than yourself and the space of your own body to do.
Students are able to move through the course at their own pace, we recommend one month per module, therefore a level would take approximately 3 months to work through. Students can stop after any of the levels or choose to move on to the next level. Levels 1 and 2 are designed for beginners through to progressive teachings. Levels 3 and 4 are designed for those who wish to go deeper into the learning and who are wanting to move into teaching their peers within prison.
Though levels 3 and 4 are peer instructor courses, they are designed for prisoners to teach other prisoners and are not a formal yoga teacher training course.
The courses are not NZQA accredited at this time, but we are working toward this, as we can see the benefit for prisoners in receiving an official NZQA Level programme.
How do prisoners do the course?
The whole course is run by correspondence through the post.
Prisoners write into us or request their Volunteer Coordinator or another support person to email or post their request in. We respond with a welcome letter and send them the first module of the course.
When they have completed a module they are asked to send in feedback on their experiences with the practices within that module. We receive their email and our course mentors respond to their feedback and post out the next module to them.
If the prisons wish to be and are able to be more involved they can print out the modules for each person as they move through the course. This will be coordinated between the YEPT course mentor and the prison volunteer coordinators.
Where we can have email correspondence between YETP and the prisons it makes for a much faster turnaround for the prisoners as there can be delays in the mail making for a long wait for a prisoner to receive their next module.
How can you help?
You can help by promoting the course within your prison, you can print out our info poster and distribute around the prisons so that prisoners know about the course.
Just click on the poster and a PDF version will pop up for printing.
You can also help by printing out the course materials for the prisoners if you are able. The course costs around $250.00 per level for us to produce and mentor, so any help with printing is much appreciated.
All we ask is to be kept updated on prisoners who start the course i.e. if you have someone who wants to start the course, that is fantastic and you can go ahead and print out and give them Module one of the first course, but, please contact our Course Coordinator by email to let them know the name, PRN, and prison the new student is from.
We need to keep good records of everyone that starts the course for our funding applications and obligations.
Links for the printable copies of the modules is at the bottom of this page, please keep scrolling down.
Feedback from course participants
Yoga has shown me a new way of being. Not only am I physically stronger – I am spiritually stronger. Yoga is more than a philosophy, or a fitness programme – it is a way of being in this world.
The pain of prison no longer has to be avoided at all cost. It can now be used, through my yoga practice, as a mechanism for personal growth, as the pain of my incarceration has brought me to yoga.
Emotionally yoga has improved my anger management, as I used to be a short tempered person. I feel good to be in my own skin.
I feel good to be practicing yoga and it makes me a happy person.
What is the best thing you have discovered about yourself through doing this course? – “There isn’t one thing I’ve discovered about doing this course, there are a lot of best things I’ve discovered, from better health, better mentally, more flexible, more in tune with my environment, and I live in the now.
It has helped cure my depression and anxiety. This is all due to the course helping me in all aspects of my life.
I realized that yoga not only helps your flexibility and strengthening of muscles, but it also unlocks your state or mind to enable you to solve day to day problems without stressing.
I also have used yoga to distract me from alcohol and drug cravings.
The breathing techniques and the whole awareness techniques are the best tools for me to use when I think about alcohol and drugs.
I have discovered what, and who I am, and what really matters to me.
We can find freedom in prison, this is a lifetime thing, and it’s very good for our physical, mental, psychological and spiritual health.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do prisoners or prison staff get in touch with you?
Please post letters to
Yoga Education In Prisons Trust
PO Box 7365,
or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do students need a yoga mat?
It is great to have a mat, but you do not need a mat to practice yoga. Some prisons do hold mats and these are available during in prison yoga classes.
We can also provide a mat (free of charge) to any prisoner who requires one (and is permitted to have a mat in their cell). Please contact us or ask the prisoner to contact us and we will get a mat sent into them.
How long does it take for prisoners to do the course?
We put a general time of one month per module. Each level has 3 modules, and it will take a prisoner approximately 3 months to complete a level. We do understand though that things can get busy in prison, and prisoners also may be moved between prisons, so we allow time for this.
There is no time limit – if it takes a prisoner 6 months to do a level that is fine too. If there is a particularly long time between receiving correspondence from a prisoner, we may ask them to start the course from the beginning, but this has only happened in a few cases.
Does the course cost anything?
No, the course is 100% free for all prisoners in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Do the prisoners receive recognition for completing the course?
Yes, we provide a certificate at the end of each level, if a prisoner goes through and does all four courses, they will receive four certificates in total. We are not currently NZQA accredited but are working on this, as we would love to be able to provide prisoners with an accredited programme.
What happens if a prisoner is released before they complete the course?
Prisoners are welcome to continue the course from home and we will continue to mentor them. We provide information for the prisoners about this in the course guidelines.
Do you have a sample letter for prisoners?
Yes, please click here for a sample letter you can print out and give to them to send or be emailed to us.
Can anyone else do the course?
Yes! The course is also free to all prison staff who wish to do the course, and to whanau of prisoners who wish to do the course.