Yoga as a tool for rehabilitation

The documentary “Within” or “Interno” in Spanish, describes the work of a nonprofit called Parinaama Foundation, that makes an extraordinary approach to rehabilitate people in prisons. Ann moxey, founder of the foundation, teaches Parinaama Yoga – yoga for transformation- for people in prisons to learn how to manage stress, deal with addictions and let go of any attachments. Ann moxey believes that by teaching prisoners they’re not just their bodies, that they have a soul and a spirit and that it can’t be incarcerated by anyone but ourselves, they could find inner freedom. According to Deepak Chopra, “Although we all have a tendency to identify ourselves with the external aspects of our lives, yoga encourages us to go deeper into our being and find the inner place that is beyond temporary anchors.” Ann Moxey uses yoga as an initial tool for rehabilitation.

The documentary can be found in youtube, it explains her work in a Mexican prison in the state of Morelos. Inmates that are part of her class provide their testimony about their conviction and their experience practicing yoga with Ann Moxey. The very first thing that Ann tells them is that she has the key to freedom. She tells them that if they master yoga they will be able to feel power over themselves. Through their practice of yoga they learn to channel their emotions into a more productive feeling such as empowerment to do a better practice. An inmate that takes part in her class says: “bless imagination for with it I feel free.” Through mantras Ann is able to guide them to visualize the kind of person they want to be and all the good that´s inside them. She also teaches them to acknowdlege the wrong they have done, Ann says “what we deny from ourselves becomes a kind of monster, if we honor everything about ourselves, even the bad, we can heal” and this certainly is empowering.

Prisoners believe that violence and addictions are diseases not felonies, that these are a reflection of society that is sicker than them. They say violence can only be beaten with love. In another testimony a man mentions that jail changed for him once he started to open to other options. He joined yoga lessons, theater lessons, among others and that made a difference in his experience in jail. He says, “Society does not need strong punishments but harmonization programs.” It can be observed during the documentary that yoga appears to bring inner peace and self-acceptance to the inmates that make it a habit to go to the class. Perhaps this is the first step towards rehabilitation.

Ann Moxey also tells them that true yoga practice begins when they roll their mat. She hopes for several people to be able to be trained as yoga professor so that when they leave prison they’re able to teach in yoga centers on the outside. I was unable to find any social impact evaluation that would confirm the lower recidivism rate caused by the practice of yoga. However, during the documentary several formerly incarcerated men provide their positive testimony in their lives once they leave prison.

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