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    Prisoners Doing Yoga Report Lower Stress And Higher Well Being
    By News Staff | July 11th 2013 06:00 AM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Yoga improves the mood and mental wellbeing of prisoners, say psychologists who report that after a ten-week yoga course, the convicts reported improved mood, reduced stress and were better at a task related to behavior control than those who continued in their normal prison routine.


     The work was inspired by the Prison Phoenix Trust, an Oxford-based charity that offers yoga classes in prisons. They approached Oxford University psychologists about conducting the study to assess the benefits. The study was designed, analyzed and published independently of the Trust Oxford psychologists, along with colleagues from  King's College London, the University of Surrey and Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. 

    Prisons see rates of mental health problems that are many times higher than the general population, and high levels are often recorded of personal distress, aggression, antisocial behavior and drug and alcohol abuse among prisoners.

    Yoga and meditation practitioners claim reduced anxiety, depression and improved mood so the psychologists carried out an initial exploratory study to look at a range of possible benefits of yoga among prisoners.

    Inmates of a range of ages were recruited from five category B and C prisons, a women's prison and a young offender institution, all in the West Midlands, and were randomly assigned to either a course of ten weekly yoga sessions of 90 minutes run by the Prison Phoenix Trust, or to a control group.

    "We found that the group that did the yoga course showed an improvement in positive mood, a decrease in stress and greater accuracy in a computer test of impulsivity and attention," say Dr Amy Bilderbeck and Dr Miguel Farias, who led the study at the Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry at Oxford University. "The suggestion is that yoga is helpful for these prisoners."

    Bilderbeck added, "This was only a preliminary study, but nothing has been done like this before. Offering yoga sessions in prisons is cheap, much cheaper than other mental health interventions. If yoga has any effect on addressing mental health problems in prisons, it could save significant amounts of public money." 

    In sessions with the researchers before and after the yoga course, all the prisoners completed standard psychology questionnaires measuring mood, stress, impulsivity and mental wellbeing. A computer test to measure attention and the participant's ability to control his or her responses to an on-screen cue was also used after the yoga course.

    Bilderbeck, who practices yoga, cautions, "We're not saying that organising a weekly yoga session in a prison is going to suddenly turn prisons into calm and serene places, stop all aggression and reduce reoffending rates. We're not saying that yoga will replace standard treatment of mental health conditions in prison. But what we do see are indications that this relatively cheap, simple option might have multiple benefits for prisoners' wellbeing and possibly aid in managing the burden of mental health problems in prisons."

    Sam Settle, director of the Prison Phoenix Trust, says, "Almost half of adult prisoners return to prison within a year, having created more victims of crime, so finding ways to offset the damaging effects of prison life is essential for us as a society. This research confirms what prisoners have been consistently telling the Prison Phoenix Trust for 25 years: yoga and meditation help them feel better, make better decisions and develop the capacity to think before acting – all essential in leading positive, crime-free lives once back in the community."

    Published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.


    Comments

    rholley
    from

    on why the Baroque is superior to Rock

    A prison officer in the prison in which I worked, a man of Jamaican origin and therefore by no means culturally predisposed to such a conclusion, had found also that rock and baroque exerted quite different effects on the prisoners. The first agitated them to the point of violence, the latter soothed them to the point of docility. But he had difficulty in persuading the other officers of the value of his observations, for culturally they were themselves more inclined to rock than baroque. As to my proposal that the prison should echo to the sound of Gregorian chant, they thought it was merely a joke.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hank
    They could say the same thing about jazz (and did, in the 1950s) or any music that has a faster rhythm.  It may be just cultural too.  Whenever I hear bagpipes I am instinctively inspired to headbutt someone from Clan Donald so someone who hears rap music in prison today may want to headbutt a neo-nazi.

    What would be a study is seeing if baroque, classical, romantic, expressionist, etc. led to any difference in behavior, since they are all different from each other but not likely part of any prisoner's culture, the way rock or rap might be.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Whenever I hear bagpipes I am instinctively inspired to headbutt someone from Clan Donald
    Ha ha, very funny Hank, you made me choke on my coffee :) Bagpipes have a quite profound effect on my family too and we are also of Scottish descent.
     I normally insist on playing bagpipe 'music' on New Year's Eve/Day just after midnight, because I've had a few drinks and I love the bagpipes and associate them with many past New Year's Eves. Then I wonder why people suddenly start arguing about something, like how to turn off the music, its a great start to the New Year! 

    I read somewhere, probably here, but also here, that they were used in battle to scare the enemy when the pipers marched ahead into battle and also to get the Scots into the mood for fighting and there's even a Rory Campbell in that piper list. Must have been a bit risky being at the front though.

    'The steady drone note can enhance the music, but as utilized in battle this tone can be an incredible irritation, and when the bagpipes were utilized as a call to war, these powerful tones incited or motivated the troops into action. "The notes of the pipes have a shrill and penetrating quality that can be heard at distances up to nine miles, and are not easily drowned out even by the sounds of battle".'
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    MikeCrow
    I've come to the conclusion that the part of the brain that process sound/music stops it's rapid growth in the late teens, most people listen to that kind of music, that tempo for the rest of their life, and without long exposure to different/faster tempo music, it's 'noise'. I think it has to do with the brains ability to decompose the sound, the brains audio FFT hardware has the wrong sampling rate. But exposure to new music will create new sampling, if listened too long enough.

    It's why I don't like a lot of my kid's music, and why my parents didn't like my music.
    Never is a long time.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I've come to the conclusion that the part of the brain that process sound/music stops it's rapid growth in the late teens, most people listen to that kind of music, that tempo for the rest of their life, and without long exposure to different/faster tempo music, it's 'noise'.
    I think you can fight that brain calcification by forcing yourself to listen to new music and genres throughout your life. You can't help enjoying some of them and it keeps your brain flexible. Well that's my hypothesis anyway :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    MikeCrow
    I agree.
    Never is a long time.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Yoga and meditation practitioners claim reduced anxiety, depression and improved mood so the psychologists carried out an initial exploratory study to look at a range of possible benefits of yoga among prisoners.
    Inmates of a range of ages were recruited from five category B and C prisons, a women's prison and a young offender institution, all in the West Midlands, and were randomly assigned to either a course of ten weekly yoga sessions of 90 minutes run by the Prison Phoenix Trust, or to a control group.

    I wonder what the prison control groups were doing? Hopefully they weren't being held in solitary confinement? 

    This Wired Science article called 'the Horrible Psychology of Solitary Confinement' describes how 'California holds some 4,500 inmates in solitary confinement, making it emblematic of the United States as a whole: More than 80,000 U.S. prisoners are housed this way, more than in any other democratic nation....The human brain is ill-adapted to such conditions, and activists and some psychologists equate it to torture. Solitary confinement isn’t merely uncomfortable, they say, but such an anathema to human needs that it often drives prisoners mad. In isolation, people become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses. The problems are even worse in people predisposed to mental illness, and can wreak long-lasting changes in prisoners’ minds.'

    'In the largest prison protest in California’s history, nearly 30,000 inmates have gone on hunger strike. Their main grievance: the state’s use of solitary confinement, in which prisoners are held for years or decades with almost no social contact and the barest of sensory stimuli.'

    How can anyone justify such inhumane treatment? Solitary confinement for decades with irreversible brain damage resulting from complete social isolation of a human being? Those doing yoga in this article are presumably at the other end of the prison population behavioral spectrum but maybe yoga could also be taught to the prisoners in solitary confinement to help them cope better? Or better still, surely we should stop these inhumane practices?

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    This study, as all studies about yoga or meditation, does not satisfy the standards of science. There is no active (placebo) control group where the expectations are set as high as in the experimental group. If this were about medicine, you would not get away with this amateur stuff.

    Great artcle.

    One aspect about yoga is that is focuses on a calm mind... when you practice yoga you fall into the behaviors of yoga (relaxation, slower movement, self control)... in terms of cognitive dissonance theory if your behaviors and thoughts do not match then the mind seeks to bring it back in line... since a behavior cannot be changed (has already happened) the belief about one self much change....

    With the above, many prisoners have a very aggressive personality, but by doing calm and peaceful actions they can Help to change the internal aspects of themselves.... I have used the same theory many times in adjusting the behaviors and actions of my own younger students.

    Love the article
    George
    http://www.the-wandering-yogi.com/

    I have been teaching yoga to women in a high security prison for over a year and a half now. One of my groups has been consistent about attending every class and they have told me how much it's made a difference to the quality of their life. They love all aspects of yoga and my officer has told me of the remarkable difference that she has noted in the women that have been coming. From violent to very calm and rational. Yoga needs to be in every prison, every where. I too am interested in conducting a study on it's benefits. Any guidance how I might go about doing that in Australia.... thank you

    I have been teaching yoga to women in a high security prison for over a year and a half now. One of my groups has been consistent about attending every class and they have told me how much it's made a difference to the quality of their life. They love all aspects of yoga and my officer has told me of the remarkable difference that she has noted in the women that have been coming. From violent to very calm and rational. Yoga needs to be in every prison, every where. I too am interested in conducting a study on it's benefits. Any guidance how I might go about doing that in Australia.... thank you

    Yoga in prisons is a great idea but so is stopping solitary confinement for decades for thousands of prisoners. Can you imagine what that must be like Adriana?