Yoga could be used to improve mood of prisoners

Yoga in prisonsAn Oxford University study claims yoga can improve the mood and mental well-being of prisoners.

Researchers ran a 10 week yoga course in two prisons in the West Midlands to see if it would help calm aggressive and antisocial behaviour.

Dr Amy Bilderbeck and her team hoped the ancient practice would help stem the burden of mental health problems in prisons.

All prisoners were either from the women’s prison or the young offender institution. The researchers set out to track participants’ mood, stress levels, impulsivity and attention spans.

Dr Bilbeck explained: “The group that did the yoga course showed an improvement in positive mood, a decrease in stress and greater accuracy in a computer test of impulsivity and attention.”

She believes holding yoga sessions in prisons could be a cheap way to manage mental health problems, improve behavioural problems and save public money. She was also quick to mention that while yoga is effective, it is not a magic cure and will not turn prisons into serene, peaceful places or stop all aggression by any means.

Sam Settle, director of Oxford-based Prison Phoenix Trust (which runs the yoga classes) believes yoga and meditation can help prisoners feel better.

Yoga relaxes the body and mind to enable better decision making, which teaches prisoners to think before they act. Yoga also promotes mindfulness, which can help people develop a stronger sense of self. All of these are essential qualities for prisoners who are expected to lead good, crime-free lives back in the wider community upon release.

Yoga involves breathing and stretching exercises. It is a low impact exercise thought to be hugely beneficial both physically and mentally at any age. Yoga can be enjoyed by beginners and athletes alike – there are endless ways to adapt moves for every level.

To find out more about the benefits of yoga, please visit our Yoga Therapy page.

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Written by Zoe Thomas

Written by Zoe Thomas

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