By Amber Skorpenske for the Institute of International Journalism, Feb 15, 2012
Prisoners in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are getting out of jail early if they complete yoga courses.
By participating in three months of posture, balance and meditation inmates hack away at their jail time by 15 days. Authorities say these lessons will improve the inmate’s demeanor by reducing stress and aggression.
Carol McClenahan a yoga instructor based in Pittsburgh traveled to a similar prison in Jaipur, Rajasthan that offered yoga to inmates every Saturday. She says, “There were about 30 inmates taking the classes and I saw amazing postures which they had practiced. Pranayama practices (the art of breathing control) were an integral part of the program.” A local Rotary Club sponsored this particular program.
In many jails there are yoga competitions among the inmates giving them not only benefits from yoga
but also self-worth and to show how far they’ve come. McClenahan was one of the judges at these competitions and says, “I witnessed a great camaraderie and self-worth there.”
Yoga has very different connotations in India then it does in the United States. Manish Patel, Business Manager of Bayer Material Science based in Baytown Texas, says, “ Ancient Indian religious values and traditions has engraved practices such as yoga in modern day society. The culture of India in general believes in purity of the mind and soul and many religious practices directly correspond to doing just that.” It is more like a great spiritual awakening or cleansing of oneself and in this way could be beneficial to inmates.