On February 2nd, 2016, Yoga Behind Bars (YBB) completed their first-ever yoga teacher training program for prisoners. 10 men from 5 Washington prisons graduated from their inaugural Teacher Trainings Behind Bars (TTBB) program. Upon graduation, the men returned to their home facilities to teach yoga to their fellow inmates with the continued support of YBB staff and volunteers.
The 10 students at Stafford Creek were selected for their leadership and commitment to mentoring others. In August of 2015, they came from 5 different prisons around the state, most of them serving life sentences. These students participated in 100+ hours of training, lead by YBB teachers Laura Prudhomme and Dawn Hanson, as well as special guest teachers. After completing the training, each participant returned to their home facility to teach yoga under the guidance of Yoga Behind Bars.
Yoga Behind Bars offers tools that help students become more whole, remain healthy, and prepare for their successful return to our communities. Prisoners learn yoga, with breathing techniques, which help them relax, helping curb stress and negative impulses.
Starting with one yoga teacher in one facility in 2008, today a team of over 50+ incredible yoga instructors teach an average of 20-26 classes a week in thirteen locations. Every day an average of 30 incarcerated students practice yoga and meditation through their programs.
Graduates expressed why yoga is important to them below.
[su_quote cite=”Steve, 7 years practicing yoga and meditation”]I constantly strive to improve my community through thoughtful counsel and fair meditation…I am currently striving to further my understanding of anatomy and physiology as well as rehabilitative exercises. I am currently a vegetarian and advocate for nonviolent resolutions. I have been attempting to procure copies of the Bhagavad Cita and the Vedas for some time. I also read everything I can in reference to yoga and vedantic philosophy.[/su_quote]
[su_quote cite=”Wendell, 2 years practicing yoga and daily meditation”]I started incorporating yoga in my daily life in 2013 here at WSP. It allows me to keep a pure mind and sound body…I practice living a healthy lifestyle now, I mediate daily, I work in recreation, and I help inmates now get in shape and help them with elevating their mind so that they can change their thinking to become better individuals upon their release back to society…I look forward to opening my own fitness club once I return back to society, and by me obtaining my yoga certification, I can implement this into my fitness club also. I look forward to helping individuals and myself to become better for society.[/su_quote]
[su_quote cite=”Greg, student of Siddha yoga meditation for 5 years”]Freedom of the mind, to find the self. Just long enough for subtle processes to take place…I feel this is an opportunity to continue this journey of the self, and becoming a teacher of yoga is my greatest honor.[/su_quote]
In the Fall of 2016, YBB will bring the TTBB to the women’s prison in Purdy, Washington.
Other interesting advancements that YBB is currently working on include:
- Classes for DOC staff members: this is a new initiative we are working on to increase compassion and reduce stress in prisons. Stay tuned.
- YBB in Eastern Washington: we plan to expand to eastern WA by summer of 2016. This initiative will bring us towards meeting our goals as an organization to provide yoga to 50% of WA facilities, and will provide mentors to our recently graduated teacher trainees behind bars.
YBB’s is currently requesting support for their 2nd Teacher Training Behind Bars at Washington Corrections Center for Women. View the campaign to raise the money needed for this groundbreaking program!
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