DVDs support wellbeing in prison with yoga and meditation toolkits

The Prison Phoenix Trust and Novus will this Autumn launch specialist prison yoga and meditation DVDs to support the physical and mental health of people in prison.

The two organisations are responding to the UK Government’s 2021 Prisons Strategy White Paper, which proposes making better use of technological advances to support safer, healthier prisons in which prisoners are encouraged “to take ownership of their own care and wellbeing” with “opportunities for purposeful activity accessible to everyone”.

DVD-playing devices have been made more widely available across the prison estate since the Covid-19 pandemic has led to prisoners spending much longer periods in their cells. These two titles will help a wider range of people explore the benefits of yoga and meditation, including younger prisoners and those who struggle with reading.

The DVDs can been used by individuals in their cells or by prison staff and educators in a group setting. Each one features five yoga or meditation sessions, ranging in length from 7 to 38 minutes.

As well as the DVD format, The Prison Phoenix Trust is also working with HMPPS Digital and other partners to make these short yoga and meditation films available digitally in-cell and in group settings.

Former Prison Governor Suzy Dymond-White said: The Prison Phoenix Trust DVDs make yoga accessible in a straightforward and honest way. My experience as a prison governor and lifelong student of yoga leads me to conclude that they will help people who live and work in our prisons to explore the physical and mental benefits of yoga and meditation; helping with relaxation and emotional regulation. I thoroughly recommend them.”

‘Meditation and yoga are increasingly being recognised as valuable rehabilitative interventions in prisons.’

Jim King, former Head of Education, Scottish Prison Service

Director of the Prison Phoenix Trust Selina Sasse said: “Regular practice of simple breath-focused meditation and movement has been shown to reduce impulsiveness, anger and aggression; improve sleep, concentration and self-discipline; and importantly instil a sense of self-worth and hope – foundations that are essential to prisoners’ rehabilitation.”

Novus Digital Learning Manager Steve Grix said: “I know from my years as a teacher in prisons, how poor mental health is often an obstacle to learning,  even more so since the pandemic. Novus has collaborated with the Prison Phoenix Trust in producing these short filmed yoga and meditation sessions because we hope they could play an valuable role in helping people in prison be mentally and physically well enough to make use of educational and training opportunities.”

The Prison Phoenix Trust supports efforts to reduce reoffending by helping 4,500 prisoners to practise yoga and meditation during their sentence – around 4.6% of the prison populations of the UK and Ireland. It does this by providing resources such as books and CDs, a quarterly newsletter and personal correspondence. It also trains and supports yoga teachers to work safely and respectfully in secure environments.

Novus is a provider of education, skills and employability programmes which specialises in working with offenders distant from the labour market. As part of the LTE Group, a leading further education college group, Novus has over 30 years’ experience of pioneering digital innovation, collaboration and new ways of working. It is publicly funded and is committed to delivering the learning, skills and opportunity that offenders and other-hard-to-reach learners need to build positive futures for themselves, their families and communities.

Upcoming Training – Teaching Yoga in Prisons

Join The Prison Phoenix Trust in Birmingham for two events on Sunday 16th October. Learn from the UK’s leading prison yoga charity with over 30 years’ experience bringing the benefits of meditation and yoga to people living and working in secure environments.

Yoga teachers in training session10am – 1pm Introducing Prison Yoga

Find out what it’s like to teach yoga in prisons, young offenders institutions and other secure settings. Learn about the joys and challenges, how to get a class started – and how The Prison Phoenix Trust can support you.

Yoga teachers practise a class2pm- 5pm Be Safe in Prison

Continuing professional development for teachers already working in prison: security changes in the last two years, an opportunity to share experiences and questions, hear from an experienced  prison officer and try out ways to deal with difficult situations that sometimes arise. 

Where:  Birmingham Buddhist Centre,11 Park Road, Birmingham, B13 8AB

When: Sunday 16th October

Cost: half day £30; whole day £45

Buy tickets here

‘I feel re-inspired having a course which is taught from a real place of compassion and truth  – restores my faith in the place of yoga in our society.’ Jane, 2021

Two years on, we sit together

By Victoria

Our first Tuesday morning meditation where we came together online began on April 28th 2020, I remember the nervousness of hosting, hoping the technology to work and wondering if anyone would attend.

I’m heartened and humbled by the continuous weekly presence of prison yoga friends, teachers, supporters and staff who steadfastly sit and have created a warm and supportive environment of peace and companionship. Together each week, by sitting in silence with the breath, we are in community with those who live and work in secure conditions around the country.

One of our regular sitters shared recently how they value the weekly gathering:

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Will you take the Prison Phoenix Trust 52 Challenge?

Image of men doing yoga in prison with 52 Challenge logo

Raise awareness and funds for prison yoga

Inspired by senior prison manager Suzy, who is running two marathons in two days to raise funds for prison yoga, we invite you join us for the The Prison Phoenix Trust 52 Challenge.

Click here to listen to Trustee and Radio Producer, Penny Boreham, in conversation with Suzy about her upcoming 52 mile challenge!

What is it?

Set yourself – or your friends, colleagues or students – a challenge to raise awareness of yoga and meditation in prison. If you want to raise money too, ask people to sponsor you. Go to our JustGiving Page.

When is it?

14th-15th May – or any time before then.

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Prison and probation staff offered yoga at work

The third online yoga classes being made available to all prison and probation staff takes place on Wednesday 17th November – with a focus on yoga for stability during changing times.

The sessions, which include yoga and meditation, are being provided free by the Prison Phoenix Trust. In 40 minutes, staff will learn some simple movements and breath practices that can be done sitting or standing – even at a desk.

“It’s yoga for everyone – you don’t need a yoga mat; you don’t need to be flexible or be able to touch your toes!” said The Prison Phoenix Trust director Selina Sasse.

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Long Road to London

Mike writes about his long-distance run for the love of prisoners of anything in life that takes away our peace and for the great love-centred work of the Prison Phoenix Trust.

I left prison in 2018 after serving a total of three years and four months for financial related crimes. When I arrived home, whilst delighted to be out, there were many problems. My mother-in-law had moved in and her dementia had unfortunately advanced. I returned to a small island community where I was labelled by many as a criminal. I struggled to find meaningful work. My family had been scattered. The parole people were administrative – their principle concern was to restrict my travel and the places I could stay. It was a becoming a nightmare and I was trapped.

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Yoga returns to support wellbeing in prisons, as Covid challenges continue

Yoga classes helping to reduce the time prisoners spend behind their cell doors

Across British and Irish prisons, Covid restrictions are still having a big impact on life inside, with prisons cautiously relaxing regimes and almost all still operating some kind of ‘lockdown’.

The Prison Phoenix Trust is playing a part in helping to get prisoners out of their cells with the resumption of yoga and meditation classes. In the last month, numbers of class have grown by 32%. 

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Yoga helps prison officers cope with Covid-19 stress

Prison officers are taking yoga and meditation classes to help them cope with the stresses of work as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to put extra pressure on staff working in prisons.

A confidential survey of prison officers published in May (1) found high levels of anxiety and burn out. These feelings were exacerbated amongst those with caring responsibilities fearing their frontline work may put their families’ health at risk.

With staff shortages and illness affecting an already challenging work environment, the Prison Phoenix Trust is supporting yoga and meditation classes for staff in eight UK prisons (2) and is well placed to extend this to all interested prisons. The classes are currently held via Zoom, with yoga teachers ready to start face-to-face classes once Covid-19 restrictions allow.

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Yoga comes to the aid of women’s mental health in prisons

In-cell yoga handouts support wellbeing alongside yoga classes

The Prison Phoenix Trust has developed a set of 12 guided practices to support good mental health  in response to concerns about the impact of lockdown restrictions on women prisoners. 

It follows reports that the lack of family visits and increased isolation of lockdown regimes has had a particularly severe impact on women (1).

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