With California Leading the Way, Many Prisons Offer Yoga for Inmates


The New York Times reports that the ancient art of yoga has found an unlikely home: prisons. When many states have cut their wellness and education programs for inmates, citing cost and political pressure, some wardens looking for a low-cost, low-risk way for inmates to reflect on their crimes, improve their fitness and cope with the stress of overcrowded prison life are turning toward yoga.

The number of yoga programs is not officially tracked, but many wardens said they were interested in pursuing them. Typically programs start informally, a hodgepodge of volunteer efforts by instructors and correctional facilities. At least 20 prisons now offer yoga through the Prison Yoga Project, a program that began in California 12 years ago when its founder, James Fox, began teaching yoga to at-risk youth. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has expanded yoga offerings to most of its 33 adult prisons.

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