Prisoners Gain Psychological Benefits From Yoga

Researchers say prisoners can gain psychological benefits from yoga; improving an inmate’s overall mood and mental well-being, and positively influencing impulsive behavior and control.

In a new study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Oxford University researchers collaborated with colleagues from King’s College London, the University of Surrey and Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

Dr. Amy Bilderbeck and Dr. Miguel Farias led the study at the Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry at Oxford University.

According to Medical Xpress, prisons see higher rates of mental health problems, along with higher levels of personal distress, aggression, antisocial behavior, and substance abuse. Therefore, it makes sense to evaluate potential programs that can be inexpensively implemented to intervene.

Yoga and meditation have shown to be psychologically beneficial in reducing anxiety and depression. Researchers wanted to analyze any possible benefit on prisoners engaging in meditative yoga.

The team found prisoners who engaged in a regular weekly yoga program reaped several positive psychological benefits from yoga; reporting an improvement in mood, decreased stress, and better control over impulsivity and attention, versus those who continued on in their regular prison routine, sans the yoga, reports Science Daily.

Inmates of varying ages were recruited from five category B and C prisons, all in the West Midlands. Prisoners were randomly assigned to either a 10-week course of yoga – each session running 90 minutes, and run by the Prison Phoenix Trust – or to a control group.

Of the 167 prisoners who originally signed up to the study, 100 completed the sessions and were included in the analysis.

Prisoners completed standard psychology questionnaires measuring mood, stress, impulsivity and mental well-being. A computer test measured attention and the participant’s ability to control his/her responses.

Although the results were resoundingly positive, the researchers are not insisting organizing yoga will suddenly resolve prisoner stress and aggression, making them calmer or less apt to re-offend. Nor are they saying yoga should take the place standard mental health treatment. The research simply demonstrates that yoga is an inexpensive option that may aid in the overall psychological well-being of prisoners.

The study was funded by the Portuguese BIAL Foundation and was supported by the Prison Phoenix Trust. The Prison Phoenix Trust (PPT) is a UK charity that supports prisoners in their spiritual lives through meditation and yoga.

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