Prison Yoga

In 2002, AMURT volunteer Steven Landau MD (aka Pashupati), began teaching inmates at Wake Correctional Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. The curriculum included yoga postures, meditation, kirtan (spiritual chanting), philosophy, and conduct codes. Each class lasted for 2 hours, part didactic, and part practical/experiential. These weekly classes have been going on continuously since that time, and are currently being managed by Stephen Ordog (aka Shiva). The inmates are all felons, with crimes ranging from drug dealing to murder. We get about 5-10 inmates per class, and in 2008 a study was published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy describing the results of those classes. Of those who voluntarily attended more than four classes, 8.5% were reincarcerated within 2-3 years, while 25.2% of those who attended fewer than four classes were reincarcerated during this same period. This difference was found to be statistically significant at the p<0.025 level, and the rate is strikingly less than expected for this population.

Since that time, AMURT has inspired or sponsored similar programs at 6 other men’s and women’s prisons and jails across the state of North Carolina. We are currently expanding our program to include even more, with the target of reaching inmates in every correctional facility in the state. Our teachers have found the work immensely rewarding, and we also use the program as a training site for new RYT’s (Registered Yoga Teachers) and high-level trainees from various Yoga Teacher Training programs. In doing so, we have coordinated with the Yoga Teachers of the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), and the Triad Yoga Institute of Greensboro, NC. Teachers are free to choose their own curriculum and teaching style, and syllabi, materials and handouts are also provided to them as desired. Our handout texts include “We’re All Doing Time” by Bo Lozoff, and “Hey, Yoga Man!” by Shiva Steve Ordog. We also provide books for
prison libraries, including “Baba’s Grace” by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, the founder and preceptor of Ananda Marga Yoga Society.

More information can be found at www.shivadancing.com , including the text of the research article.

We encourage all yoga/meditation teachers of various stripes and lineages to engage in this program, and stand ready to assist you in this worthy endeavor to re-direct and rehabilitate people’s lives. One of our graduates, Dennis Gaddy, has made it his life’s work to provide re-entry and reconstruction services to ex-offenders, and has founded a non-profit called Community Success Initiative which may be visited at www.communitysuccess.org/ Our coordinator for programs across the state is Shyama Nair, who may be reached at shyamanair@yahoo.com . You may also feel free to contact Dr. Landau at pashupati@bellsouth.net or at his office at (919)-209-9930. We stand ready to assist you!

We also express here our gratitude for the cooperation extended by the NC Department of Corrections for providing facilities and staff for these worthy programs.

~ I AM ~

Dedicated to those who still languish behind the razor wire.