The Prison Phoenix Trust believes that everyone deserves a fresh start. We help prisoners towards that start – by providing them with the materials and ongoing support to set up and continue a daily practice of yoga and meditation.
“Meditation is going to be the key. I often sit quietly and think of the effects of my actions on others, and what I must do to repay those whom We help prisoners by: Training qualified yoga teachers for prison and help establishing weekly prison classes for prisoners and staff. We have classes in over half of British and Irish prisons.
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Sending free books and CDs out to prisoners who request them. We send over 5,000 of these a year.
Offering personal correspondence with prisoners about their meditation and yoga practice.
Sending a quarterly newsletter, mostly written by prisoners.
When inmates practise yoga and meditation, they gradually lose a lifetime sense of separation. Prisoners writing to the Trust regularly say that their practice has helped them manage stress and anger, and their relationships with others have improved, which helps with resettlement. They often discover for the first time something in themselves they like, and that they have an ability to make choices about their actions, including the choice not to re-offend.
Life has changed so much for the better since receiving your letter and enclosures. Thanks to your lovely, easy to follow book. I'm now on ‘the path' which I'm hoping will lead me to a better place. I really do believe that every time I practise yoga or meditation you are all with me. ”
The work of the Trust is entirely dependent on the generosity of people who believe inmates can discover a different way of seeing themselves and the world, through the simple practice of sitting in silence each day, and through yoga. For more information on how to donate, visit theppt.org. Uk.
Even a small donation makes a big difference.
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Yoga is well known for its physical benefits, for improving strength and flexibility and making adjustments instructural alignment. It is also increasingly recommended for helping the body and mind cope with the stresses of the 21st Century. Learning how to change the body's physical reaction to stress helps prevent heart disease and numerous other conditions. It also helps many people discover an “inner resource” that they can access during times of emotional stress. As we discuss the relationship between that magic triangle the mind, body and breath – we emphasise their separation. We talk about the mind and body being controlled through the medium of the breath. During relaxation we try to release tension and draw inwards seeking release from these three influences, moving into a deeper connection with our spirituality. An indescribable “deep nothingness* that releases us from all that connects and ties us in this world.
What is sometimes missing is an awareness of the face and head in its physical form. It is easy to let the face become a mask and the head to become a shell. We may spend many hours developing our practice, working on our arms, legs, knees, centre, and neglect this important area. The face is a complicated structure, housing all our senses and the precious brain. It is also the key to our identity, and tn a world that is fixated on image and appearance. It is not surprising that we walk around most of the day wearing a mask that conceals our true identity and a wealth of emotions For most of us crying, and even laughter, are physical reactions that we feel should be expressed in private. We are often embarrassed and confused by displays of emotion. We see it as inappropriate and childish to cry, scream or giggle. These emotions should be private and, especially for men. Condemned. Other cultures are more open to visible emotional reactions.
Death, dying and disaster are times of communal grieving. Times of joy are celebrated Expressing emotion is not only an emotional release, but exercise for the facial muscles Smiling and laughter are wonderful waysXo ease the muscles in the face and relax the mind. However, the growth of cosmetic surgery has also encouraged our society to move further into a faceless future. The ability to manipulate our looks and deceive others and ourselves is a further escape from reality. Some of this is fear, some a natural inclination to use whatever is available to make our way in a competitive world. Marketing often relies on an emotional need, claiming that intervention will make you feel good. Note – feel good, not look good. The results are what you believe, not what they have achieved… Yoga helps you accept your emotions and become aware of how the body and mind provide emotional “storage”.
New research into how the brain reacts is proving that there are two distinct areas. In layman’s terms, these are the cognitive, thinking part and the emotional area. Psychology and, especially, cognitive behavioural therapy have proved beneficial in helping people improve their lives and make life-changing ad-‘ justments.
But for those affected by trauma and emotions that cannot be accessed by talking and the logical mind, there have been other breakthroughs in treatment. This suggests that we should give our emotions greater attention and provide them with a means of expression.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) both rely on accessing the emotions through the senses. They work by the power of sight, or touch to break through the barriers that prevent emotional healing. Science is starting to understand the reasons why logic is not always the best healing process. How often have we heard, or perhaps said, ‘I know it doesn't make sense, but I can’t stop this feeling”? Yoga is a great tool in this healing process. Yoga does not rely on an intellectual process. Mindfulness is more of an emotional commitment than a demand or intellectual challenge.
It permits emotional responses and accepts the body and mind in its natural state. By encouraging the body and mind to work together there is no surprise when we discover that our emotions affect our body through tension, pain and other reactions. Equally, we learn that the body can affect how we emotionally feel – breathing, changes in heart rate and increases in adrenaline. Shallow breathing can make you feel stressed and panicky, and fast movement will soon have you alert and stimulated. Life can sometimes feel like acting on a stage.
We start the day, go out into the world and start to perform various roles. This may mean passing through the day with our ‘mask' in place. Eventually we become that mask. Days, months or even years may pass without any physical or emotional outlet. The facial muscles weaken and we become used to our developed expression. Yoga can strengthen and stimulate the muscular structure of the face. It will help protect against ageing and help us use our facial expression to express our emotions. The face can be compared to a curtain that protects the outside world from seeing what is happening inside. By using the face as a tool for emotional expression we are restoring it to its intended purpose. We can rediscover the joy of laughter, the release of tears and the relief of stillness. Integrating the face into yoga practice gives us the opportunity to become more aware of the connection between our emotions and our physical body.