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Yoga Offers Freedom to Those Behind Bars

February 7, 2012

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We reach approximately 40 prisoners from the admissions centre each week. Over 250 inmates in total have been taught yoga in this project.

Three volunteer teachers are involved in this project.


SevaUnite has been teaching weekly yoga classes in the Pollsmoor Admissions Centre since July 2011. The center consists of over 4000 un-sentenced inmates housed in an area built for 1500. Overcrowding, high stress, illness and aggressive behavior are common problems in this section, and inmates are locked in small cells for over 22 hours a day! SevaUnite sees approximately 35 inmates per class, with an emphasis on stress management, physical and mental health, boosting immunity, and developing mindfulness. The classes have been very well received by the inmates with visible signs of relaxation and peace prevailing after the classes. It’s a wonderful vision to sit in a circle with prisoners and see them with their eyes closed watching their breath. A small handout of yoga practices is given to each inmate and they are encouraged to practice daily in their cells. Mr Keith Court is the Pollsmoor representative who has organized the classes and reported the following:


I didn’t know what the response of the inmates would be, but from what I have seen so far and heard inmates said, I can only be inspired to continue offering yoga to them. They have asked to extend the classes to more then once a week …(SevaUnite) has helped inmates with their self awareness and by participating in the yoga practices they discover that there is a lot more potential within them.


Additionally to the classes, the book “We Are All Doing Time – A Guide to Getting Free” by Bo Lozoff has been posted to over 40 inmates nationally in Goodwood, Malmsebury, Johannesburg, and Pollsmoor, and also to prison inmates in Zambia. The book contains many practices and inspirational stories, and guides inmates on how to use their time in prison for spiritual growth and reflection. The Zambian inmates have started their own prayer group and SevaUnite supported them by sending the head of the group a Bible, clothing, study notebooks and pens. In addition to this, we have contacted the Gideon society to organize the distribution of another 20 bibles for the study group.


We have seen first-hand the effects of yoga on the inmates and believe it will play a vital role in the rehabilitation of prisoners. There is no doubt that the effects of yoga are extremely positive on many levels. We hope to extend the project into other sections of Pollsmoor in this coming year as well as offer courses and training to both inmates and staff at the prison. Upon perfection of our Prison Freedom Project, we hope to also take it into other correctional facilities.


Make a difference and get involved in community work in your area. Contact the SevaUnite Organisation or Leela:

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