Prison yoga teachers training

First Yoga Teachers Training in a correctional institution

The Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch just started a Yoga Teachers Training Course (TTC) free of charge in a correctional facility. The initiative – the first one of its kind – is taking place in April-October of 2015 in FCI Otisville, a medium-security United States federal prison for male inmates in New York State.

Project Description

The program offered to 16 inmates 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 being 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 ‘Baghavad Gita’, meditation theory & practice, kirtan & sanskrit chanting.Between the teaching sessions, the students are attending classes twice a week and practice and study on their own on the other days. They are required to practice daily asanas, pranayama and meditation. They also have reading assignments on yoga, writing assignments and have to keep a spiritual diary. Ultimately, this system – teaching sessions with studying intervals – will lead to a longer and more diffused training, which can bring even good results and long-lasting change.

Beyond helping 16 inmates to build a much stronger personal practice leading to an improvement in their everyday life, training yoga teachers within the prison’s walls will also enable 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 will inspire and will be replicated in other prisons, generating a greater impact and possibilities for the entire US prison population.


With 2.3 millions prisoners, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

The prison’s world is particularly stressful: overcrowding, noise and limited space can deeply amplify experiences of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, grief, fear and rage for inmates already often dealing with anger or violent impulses.

In a context offering limited recreational and educational programs, yoga can prove a low-cost and very efficient alternative, considering prison’s rehabilitation objective. Beyond the purely physical and health benefits, yoga in prison has shown significant impact to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and to help inmates dealing with daily stress that comes with incarceration. The practice is also a powerful tool for positive transformation: as inmates cultivate peace of mind and positive thinking theydevelop control over their emotions, enhance sensitivity towards themselves and empathy towards others, leading to compassion and in turn to prevention of violence. A regular yoga practice can transform them completely by the time of their release.

For the past 20 years, the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch has been sending yoga books to inmates, exchanging correspondence and teaching yoga classes and meditation in prison. In 2014, the Yoga Ranch raised about $6,700, sent 550 books and taught classes in 2 correctional facilities in New York State.