Qigong and Tai Chi in Prisons

Qigong in Prisons

The U. S. prison population is enormous and growing. Stress is a relentless and inevitable element of life in prison. The physical, mental and emotional toll that stress-related illnesses take on the inmates, guards and their families is huge. This toll filters into the rest of society. Some courageous people are addressing this problem by teaching Qigong inside prisons. Strong initial evidence indicates that inmates who practice Qigong are generally healthier and make a better adjustment when they gain their freedom. If this proves to be true, the societal and economic benefits are potentially very large. Bill Douglas, the organizer of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, describes Penal and Drug Rehabilitation at the Kansas Correctional Facility for Women.

pubmed logoPsychological Benefits of Yoga for Female Inmates.


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Transcendental Meditation and Reduced Trauma Symptoms in Female Inmates: A Randomized Controlled Study.

Penal & Drug Rehabilitation w/ Tai Chi & Qigong—A Resource for Court, Jail, Prison, and Drug Rehabilitation Professionals, & Tai Chi & QG Teachers. The National Institute of Corrections recognizes World Tai Chi and Qigong Day's website as a resource for the use of Tai Chi and Qigong in courts, jails, and prisons.

Yoga Could Help Improve Prison Environment- New Study.

Tai Chi Health and Meditation Helps Prisoners (YouTube 4:10). 20 Years ago, Bruce Kumar Frantzis was asked and then volunteered to teach Wu style Tai Chi at the New Mexico State Penitentiary (which had just undergone extremely violent riots). The experiment of learning Tai Chi had a profound effect on the prisoner's lives, both by fixing long standing ailments (and stress) with Tai Chi's Medical Aspects and by rehabilitating the prisoners (and in turn contributing to calming down the violence in the prison) through practicing Tai Chi as meditation.

The David Lynch Foundation is working to bring the benefits of meditation to the prison population as is the Prison Mindfulness Institute.

Yoga and Meditation Improve Life Behind Bars and BeyondStudies have shown teaching prisoners meditation and mindfulness can have positive effects on their behavior, and translates into further reductions in recidivism compared to prisoners who have only participated in traditional rehabilitation and educational programs.

Inmates find Solace in Yoga.

yoga in prisonParticipation in a 10-week course of yoga improves behavioural control and decreases psychological distress in a prison population.

Yoga for prison inmates is no longer a stretch.

Athens inmates reduce prison stress with yoga.

How yoga is helping prisoners stay calm. Very little research has been done into the value of yoga and meditation in prisons - but many prisoners have found they help overcome the stresses and strains of life behind bars. Prison authorities too are waking up to the possible benefits, providing classes in the hope of fostering a calm and positive atmosphere.

Mindfulness training improves attentional task performance in incarcerated youth

Maximum security inmates turn to meditation.

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Psychological Benefits of Yoga for Female Inmates.

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Yoga practice can play an important part in the rehabilitation of prison inmates.

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From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Mindfulness-Based Interventions. The U.S. Department of Justice indicates that 83% of individuals released from state prisons in 2005 were arrested at least once during a 9-year follow-up period. With only 17% of released individuals not rearrested, it could be argued that correctional facilities fail to provide the necessary resources that individuals need for proper rehabilitation and reintegration. Thus, there is a need for alternative jail and prison programming. This article reviews the leading program, cognitive behavioral therapy, and advocates for the integration and use of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) in carceral settings. Specifically, this article reviews the literature on MBIs and their significance in corrections. PMID: 36374943

Escaping the Prison of Mind: Meditation as Violence Prevention for the Incarcerated. People in prison are disproportionately affected by health problems, some of which lead to imprisonment and some of which are caused by imprisonment. Mental illness and substance use disorders fall into both of these categories, but they are not the only ailments affiliated with incarceration. Prior to their incarceration, many people in prison did not have safe housing or stable employment and job security, and institutional policies and/or budgetary concerns prevent many inmates from receiving adequate health care while in prison. Prison inmates in the United States are both victims and perpetrators of violence while incarcerated. In all cases, acts of violence have negative psychological consequences for the victim, including depression and shame. Mindfulness meditation training for prison inmates might be among the most effective of interventions, helping to prevent violence, improve quality of life, and reduce recidivism. Research and evaluation of data suggest that mindfulness-based nonviolence programs are transferable to other inmate populations, and the author recommends that both the private and public prison systems implement such programs nationwide, with the support of state and federal governments. PMID: 31434516 

Meditation in prisons could cut over-crowding

Meditating behind bars: How yoga in prisons could cut overcrowding. This article also talks about the Prison Yoga Project.

Australian Women's Maximum Security Prison Now Offering Tai Chi

The very forward thinking Recreation manager, Steve Adams and his team, requested Tai Chi classes to become part of their activities. He hopes that offering Tai Chi to the inmates will encourage those who don't normally take part in physical activities to become more active. 

Also he hopes it will promote a calming atmosphere in an environment often fraught with stress ... and Mr. Adams chose the world acclaimed Tai Chi @ The Beach Program's master Tai Chi teacher, Bev Abella to teach for their prison program.

Live Be Yoga: How a Yoga Teacher Training in This Women's Prison Is Transforming Inmates' Lives

women in gym doing yoga

Visiting Timpanogos Women’s Correctional Facility at the Utah State #Prison in Salt Lake City, Live Be Yoga ambassadors Jeremy Falk and Aris Seaberg witness firsthand how a #yoga teacher training is transforming the lives of its #inmates. Here, they join a class inside the prison to speak to the lead trainer and founder of Yoga Assets, Denise Druce, and women who have joined the program. Plus, they also sit down with a former inmate to talk about how continuing her training is shaping her life on the outside.

Tai Chi in Prisons

Judy Tretheway, Tai Chi Chih teacher at Folsom Maximum Security Prison in California was a pioneer in prison Tai Chi programs, and has inspired other teachers worldwide.

After she invited Bill Douglas at WorldTaiChiDay.org to present at Folsom, it inspired several other prison Tai Chi programs, including one for the Kansas City Metro court rehabilitation program designed to rehabilitate offenders instead of incarceration.

Folsom's prison statistics showed that inmates practicing Tai Chi Chih had seen a dramatic decline in recidivism (return to prison) rates, and this is in line with other studies teaching meditation to inmates in various prisons.

Currently, WorldTaiChiDay.org is donating Tai Chi and Qigong resources to a Tai Chi program at the Allred Unit, a Maximum Security Prison in Texas, and working with Allred inmate, and Tai Chi group organizes, Willie Milton, to provide Tai Chi resources to prisons all across America. The publisher of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong has offered to donate copies of the book to prison Tai Chi program organizers to support their work.

Linda Bowers also pioneered a prison Tai Chi program for the Kansas State Penitentiary for Women in Topeka, Kansas, and certified to inmate students in that program as certified Tai Chi and Qigong teachers.

Freedom In Captivity: How Mindfulness Has Helped Me Cope With Life In Prison And Transformed My Life. "In the end, all this came down to the simple understanding that my situation, my environment, and all other exterior factors, had nothing to do with my mind state.  The mind’s creative powers are extraordinary, but I had been using mine to create and sustain a personal hell.  I had no one else to blame for it.  I could no longer assign the responsibility to others.  Ultimately, I was the one to decide, in each moment, what I would think.  I just needed to stay vigilant in my mindfulness practice.  By being aware, I could remind myself to practice gratitude and appreciate the things I did have.  If I refused to think of the things that were missing, the things I couldn’t change, I would be content.  I put it all together, applied it, and it actually worked." Scott Brooks.


Meditating with Officers on Rikers Island, New York City’s Notorious Jail Complex

prison guard sitting in meditation

Justin von Bujdoss, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, has been leading secular meditation for Rikers Island correction officers for more than a year.