• Prison Project Program

The Prison Project

Transforming Lives on the Inside

Advanced Yoga Teacher Training

The Sivananda Prison Outreach Program was initiated in 1996 when an inmate read Swami Vishnudevananda’s Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga and expressed his appreciation in the magazine Prison Life. Shortly after, hundreds of prisoners started writing to the Sivananda organizations expressing their interest and requesting books on yoga.

For the past 20 years, the Yoga Ranch has been sending yoga books to prisoners, exchanging correspondence, and teaching yoga classes and meditation in a New York medium security prison.

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Teachers Training Course

Inside a Federal Prison

The Yoga Ranch has extended its Prison Outreach Program to launch a Yoga Teachers Training Course (TTC) free of charge in a correctional facility. The initiative – the first one of its kind – took place from April-October, 2015 in FCI Otisville, a medium-security United States federal prison for male inmates in New York State.

The annual TTC program is offered to 20 inmates at a time and is modeled on the traditional Sivananda TTC program, the oldest yoga training in the West (since 1969) with one difference. Due to prison’s constraints, the training is held in several sessions, instead of a whole month straight. During these sessions the teaching team teaches inside the prison. The curriculum includes Hatha yoga, Yoga & Vedanta philosophy, anatomy & physiology, study of the scripture ‘Bhaghavad Gita’, meditation theory & practice, Kirtan & Sanskrit chanting.

Between the teaching sessions, the students attend a weekly class and practice and study on their own. They are required to practice daily Asanas, Pranayama and meditation. They also have reading assignments on yoga, writing assignments and keep a spiritual diary. Ultimately, this system – teaching sessions with studying intervals – leads to a longer and more diffused training, which offers the possibility of even better results and long-lasting change.

Beyond helping 20 inmates to build a much stronger personal practice leading to an improvement in their everyday life, training yoga teachers within the prison’s walls also enables inmates to teach each other on a more frequent basis, thus bringing yoga to a larger inmate population and in turn, benefiting the entire prison.

We wish this pilot initiative inspires and will be replicated in other prisons, generating a greater impact and possibilities for the entire US prison population.