A paper in California Journal of Health Promotion by Washington State University Extension educator Jennifer Crawford claims that yoga, a religious movement which became a fitness fad in the United States, may help incarcerated fathers improve their parenting skills.

The work in Chelan County Regional Jail in Wenatchee took place over three years with 14 different groups of male inmates. The program was advertised among the jail population; volunteers, who had to be parents of young children and pass a security screening, were recruited.

Crawford found that inmates demonstrated being more aware and accepting of their vulnerability and responsiveness to children, among other benefits.


Participants in the Fit Fathers, Successful Families, Inside and Out do the downward dog pose during a yoga session of their class. Credit: Washington State University

The program, called "Fit Fathers, Successful Families, Inside and Out," had a goal of preventing child abuse and reducing recidivism by improving parents' resilience.

"We would have a class on a specific topic, like child development or setting limits," Crawford said. "That would last about an hour, then a yoga instructor would come in and give a guided yoga class. 

"Yoga can be physically demanding, and the initial responses we got from the participants confirmed that. I believe the yoga practice helped participants become ready to learn and increased their willingness to try new ideas, absorb new information and begin to apply these in their lives."

Although the yoga instructor for each lesson couldn't physically touch the participants due to jail regulations, Crawford said the classes didn't look that unusual.

"It was very similar to what a person would see in a normal yoga gym - other than the security guards entering and leaving the room," she said. 

Published in the August edition of the California Journal of Health Promotion, s
Source: Washington State University