Home » General » Yoga helps prison inmates by teaching them techniques to reduce stress, think more calmly and control their emotions.

Yoga helps prison inmates by teaching them techniques to reduce stress, think more calmly and control their emotions.

Did you know yoga has helped prison inmates by teaching them techniques to reduce stress, think more calmly and control their emotions.

WOW!…. what a powerful testimonial for yoga. Thank you 90 year old Sister McInnes for creating and delivering your prison yoga program to help our inmates.

Now, lets get proactive and begin launching the School YOGA-TASTIC ?Program in every school across Canada and the Mental Wellness YOGA-Tastic Program to every child, teen and adult living with mental health challenges to share techniques to reduce their stress, allow them to think more calmly and control their emotions.

To learn more about our school YOGA TASTIC Program visit webinar #6 Yoga: An effective tool to enhance a child’s ability to self-regulate at?http://www.self-regulation.ca/resources/webinars/. It is begins with an introduction by?Dr. Shanker, author of Calm, Alert and Learning and

How can I help you develop a yoga program for your class or school or mental wellness program?

To learn more about our Mental Wellness YOGA-Tastic Program, please contact us to learn how yoga was able to help decrease many symptoms associated with mental health challenges and assisted participants get a better nights sleep through our Sleep Aid Audio.

If you would like to read more about 90 year old Sister McInnis Prison Yoga and mediation class visist http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2013/09/05/prison_yoga_meditation_classes_to_expand_across_canada.html


Published on Thu Sep 05 2013

Prison yoga, meditation classes to expand across Canada

Facing funding issues and the retirement of its founder, Freeing the Human Spirit is joining the John Howard Society to keep prison yoga alive.

Sister Elaine MacInnes, now retired and living in her Toronto convent, founded Freeing the Human Spirit, an organization that currently offers the benefits of yoga and meditation practice to inmates across southern Ontario.

Jane Gerster Staff Reporter, Published on Thu Sep 05 2013

For over a decade, Sister Elaine MacInnes has struggled to raise enough funds to keep her small charity, which offers meditation and yoga to inmates, afloat.

Freeing the Human Spirit has faced an uphill battle since MacInnes first started it in 2001, when Ottawa bureaucrats initially told her there was no place for her in the correctional system.

MacInnes didn?t take no for an answer, creating her own spot in the prison system by contacting local prison officials and convincing them of the program?s merits one at a time. She and volunteers are quick to tout the program, saying it?s been able to expand because of its success in helping inmates reduce stress, think more calmly and control their emotions in the prison environment.

exas Prison Warden Carried Out 140 Executions

But MacInnes officially handed the reins over to the John Howard Society this month, a move that will give more inmates across the country access to the Toronto nun?s special brand of meditation and yoga.

The 89-year-old sister, a member of the Our Lady?s Missionaries order, a Zen master and officer of the Order of Canada, is retiring to her cozy Toronto convent, where she still meditates for at least an hour every day.

?My marbles are still fairly well,? she says, ?but I say at 90 you can?t build too much more.?

It?s the end of an era for MacInnes, who got her start in the early 1980s while volunteering in the Philippines. A friend who was arrested as a political activist asked her to teach him meditation to calm his nerves. Over several lunch hours ? the only quiet time of the day, when guards in the facility weren?t firing their weapons repeatedly ? she did.

MacInnes helped grow the Prison Phoenix Trust, another charity that offers yoga and meditation training in more than half of the United Kingdom?s prisons.

A native of New Brunswick, MacInnes came home to Canada in 2001 and founded Freeing the Human Spirit, which currently provides yoga and meditation programs to inmates in provincial and federation correctional institutions throughout southern Ontario.

She has taught meditation techniques to hundreds of inmates, following a strict rule: Prodding about their past is not allowed, and there is to be no expectation they will share their life story.

What crimes inmates have been convicted of isn?t relevant to her, she says. She simply asks if they?re ready for a clean slate, and if the answer is yes, she will teach them.

?My philosophy has always been to accept just what you have in front of you, and that means accept the person and accept them for how they are, but also where they?re at in prison,? MacInnes said.

It isn?t as scary or as intimidating as it might sound, said long-time volunteer Tamsin Pukonen, who teaches at the Toronto East Detention Centre.

?If anything, it?s sad, because it?s a heavy sort of vibe,? she said. ?It?s usually young guys that are in there for petty crimes, drugs, addiction-related stuff. They?re very vulnerable. There?s no attitude or aggression, like what you see on TV.?

Pukonen, who volunteers weekly, removes jewelry or anything else that could become a makeshift weapon before she?s escorted to a room to teach.

For an hour, she walks up to six inmates through various yoga positions and meditation.

?They start off being very fidgety and unable to sit still, and even just within an hour they?re calm and quiet,? she said. ?There?s something very powerful about a room of big, tough-looking guys covered in tattoos sitting in silent meditation, being very peaceful.?

She?s more shocked by how people outside the prison react than she is by the inmates themselves.

Two years ago, provincial Conservative leader Tim Hudak drew attention to the program, calling it a ?warped priority,? and criticizing the government for spending funds on ?perks? for prisoners.

But MacInnes and her organization have never received government money, and people?s hesitancy to donate to a prison-oriented charity is one reason for the program?s financial struggles, limiting how much the program could grow.

Freeing the Human Spirit currently works in 28 prisons, but Greg Rogers, executive director of the John Howard Society of Toronto, said it will be expanding starting this month. Bringing it under the umbrella of the society, which already works in most Canadian prisons, will make growth easier, he said.

Fundraising, though, remains a ?hard sell.?

The society will have one staff member until December dedicated to finding a new national funding base, and branches will fundraise on a local basis.

?It?s a shame that a program like this is so easily slammed,? Rogers said. ?You have inmates that are able to control their emotions and to spend their time thinking and meditating in a healthy way, which is initially what prisons were set up to do.?