I was delightfully surprised when I recently found out that one of the inmate artists who has been participating in PATH art projects - Mr. Benjamin Ballard - had illustrated all the yoga poses in a 103 page book titled YOGA: A Path For Healing and Recovery published by the Prison Yoga Project, and made possible by the Give Back Yoga Foundation’s financial support for its printing and national distribution. So far 28,000 copies of his book have been sent free of charge to men and women incarcerated in U.S. prisons who have requested it.
You may ask, “Why yoga in prison?”. Good question! According to PYP’s Founder, James Fox, MA:
“Prison is a breeding ground for mental, emotional and physical distress. Experiences of anxiety, depression, fear, distrust, agitation, hopelessness, grief and violence can be greatly increased under incarcerated conditions". [Page2 ]
"These (yoga) practices have proven effective in helping prisoners to gain insight into unconscious patterns of thinking and compulsive behavior. They have also greatly helped in improving their overall quality of life - mentally, emotionally and physically”. [ Page 1]
Hence, the Prison Yoga Project supports incarcerated people with trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness practices to promote rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, and improve public safety.
Mr. Fox began teaching yoga and meditation to prisoners at San Quentin Prison in 2002 and has since led practices and inspired the establishment of yoga programs in prisons and jails across the U.S. and internationally. He has trained thousands of teachers who have replicated PYP’s methodology in correctional facilities in 28 states, India, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, the U.K. and The Netherlands. Now that’s mighty impressive!
An inmate may request a free copy simply by writing to: The Prison Yoga Project, P.O. Box 415, Bolinas, CA 94924
Inmates must provide not only their full name and correctional facility address, but also their assigned prison number in order to successfully receive a free copy.
While The Prison Yoga Project has specially trained teachers who are leading classes in hundreds of prisons and jails around the world every week, there are still many prisoners who don’t have access to these tools for self-rehabilitation. I fully acknowledge and support this non-profit and the invaluable work that they are doing! So, if you feel so inclined to also help them grow their reach and important impact, you may send them a donation HERE.
Leslie Lakes, PATH Director
Photos courtesy of Prison Yoga Project
Photos of Ben Ballard engaged in yoga postures
Book Cover and Back artwork by Brett Crawford
Illustrations by Ben Ballard; CA
Coffee Painting by inmate artist, Jeremy J. Hammill; FL