FROM CRIME TO DIVINE - Prison Yoga an alternative solution to anger, fear and violence.

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South Indian Yoga Master Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is conducting yoga programs in prisons in the United States and India that transforms hardened criminals into beings becoming aware of their divine nature. One prisoner says, "I came in after committing a murder. had I gone out, I would have committed two more. Now I see all as a part of me."

FROM: ISHA FOUNDATION

A non-profit organization advancing physical, mental and spiritual health through yoga science

PRESS RELEASE                     DATE: 7-22-02

FROM CRIME TO DIVINE

Inner Freedom for the Imprisoned yoga programs debut in Pennsylvania, Kentucky prisons to offer alternative solution to anger, fear, stress and violence

For Immediate Release

Contact: Linda Wright 615-665-1714

[Nashville]“Inner Freedom for the Imprisoned” prison yoga programs are being offered for the first time in two American correctional facilities this summer: The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at SCI-Dallas from June 10-14 and at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky from July 30-August 04. The programs are sponsored by non-profit Isha Foundation, whose founder Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev of South India also teaches the 20-hour classes that offer an alternative solution to dealing with fear, anger, stress and violence. Since Sadhguru offered his first yoga program in India in 1992, thousands of inmates once considered outcasts and burdens to society are now considered exemplary prisoners. But getting yoga into prisons was not easy.

Even the country credited with the development of the ancient science of yoga resisted opening its prison doors to the practice – at first. But the longing to offer himself to an often forgotten segment of humanity propelled Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, realized master and mystic from South India, to persist in an eight-month vigil in 1992 to obtain the opportunity to conduct his first yoga program in the Coimbatore Central Prison. From the amazing results of his initial contact with 67 life-term criminals grew the successful yoga programs that are currently offered in all prisons in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu at the request of prison authorities. Mr. Rajkumar, the Jail Superintendent of Madurai Central Prison confirmed, “The prisoners had starting showing tremendous transformation mentally.” Disciplinary levels had improved in the jail and even relatives who came to visit the prisoners were able to observe positive changes.

American prison officials are hoping to see similar results. Betty Kassulke, a former warden of Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, KY was instrumental in securing approval for the Inner Freedom for the Imprisoned yoga program there. She said, “If I were still managing a prison and had the power to make choices about new programs I would be excited about this one.”

Practices taught in the yoga program are based on a holistic approach to health, and have proven that once a person’s inner energies are in balance and full flow, he can live in inner peace and “freedom” regardless of his outer environment. By focusing on inner transformation, Inner Freedom for the Imprisoned yoga programs help inmates develop emotional and mental balance, responsibility, acceptance and communications skills they can use to improve the quality of life during incarceration and increase their chance of a successful return to society once they are released. Participants are given tools to go inward and help them examine the roots of their violent behavior and learn alternatives for coping with stress and anger. The program provides prisoners with the possibility of an ongoing yoga practice they can follow independently for the rest of their lives.

Although the word yoga conjures images of people in complex physical postures, this is only a small aspect of the ancient science of yoga, which is about being in union with existence and finding the divinity within. Sadhguru’s yoga program is a dynamic combination of breathing techniques and meditation, which stimulates the release of physical, mental and emotional blocks and activates spontaneous expression of one’s vital energy. Yoga begins with a practice but is actually a subtle process that leads to a change in one’s inner chemistry. Science today has proven that emotional states have biological chemical basis. The success of Inner Freedom for the Imprisoned programs rests on this fact: If a person transforms his inner chemistry, his behavior will naturally change.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is the founder of Isha Foundation (Isha means "Formless Divine"), a non-profit organization devoted to advancing physical, mental and spiritual health through yoga science. The master’s humanitarian initiatives with the United Nations for world peace and his outreach programs for life-term prisoners and destitute children have received international attention. He was among the world’s preeminent spiritual leaders attending the Millennium World Peace Conference at the United Nations and stands as a unique advocate for world peace, in that his approach is through inner peace of the individual. His work with prisoners is based on love and humanitarian outreach, and focuses on the innate divinity within all human beings. Participants in the Isha Foundation’s yoga programs have experienced Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev as an enlightened being, whose very presence and energy is a source of inspiration. He says, “The practice of yoga plays a crucial role in cleansing restless minds and bringing peace to the heart.”

The practice of yoga has brought amazing transformation to thousands of prisoners in South Indian prisons. Isha Foundation has collected approximately 1700 quotes and poems penned by inmates formerly considered among the most violent offenders to express the changes within their inner being. A Coimbatore Central Prisoner says, “Now I don’t experience this place as a prison, but as a place for reflecting on my life. This prison is not a mirage, it is a thirst quenching pond.” Another inmate practicing yoga says, “I came in after committing a murder. Had I gone out, I would have committed two more. Now I see all as a part of me.”    

Isha Foundation is currently providing 100% funding for Inner Freedom for the Imprisoned to USA prisons, but is seeking partnerships with other non-profit organizations and government agencies to help sponsor programs and expand the project to a greater number of correctional facilities in America. For more information, contact Isha Foundation’s USA office at 615-665-1714.

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Linda Wright