A Pilot Study of Yoga with Incarcerated Youth Using the Prison Yoga Project Approach

Author: Jennifer Ishaq1, Kyle Eyman2, Elizabeth Goncy3, Lynn Williams4, Katherine Kelton5, Nicholas Knickerbocker1
1 Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University, Ohio.
2 Doctoral student, School of Psychology, University of Indianapolis, Indiana.
3 Associate Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University, Ohio.
4 Psychologist, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, Ohio.
5 Staff Psychologist, VA Boston Healthcare System, Department of Veterans Affairs, Massachusetts.
Conference/Journal: Int J Yoga Therap
Date published: 2023 Dec 1
Other: Volume ID: 33 , Issue ID: 2023 , Pages: Article 16 , Special Notes: doi: 10.17761/2023-D-23-00012. , Word Count: 243

In recent decades, there has been more significant implementation and research of yoga programs in prisons and correctional facilities. Existing literature suggests that adult and juvenile prison-based yoga programs may improve stress-management and self-regulation skills; reduce depression, anxiety, aggression, and addictive behaviors; and increase prosocial behaviors. However, yoga in juvenile correctional facilities is still understudied compared to adult populations. The Prison Yoga Project (PYP) and Yoga FLAME (Focus, Letting go, Anger management, Mindfulness, and Exhaling negativity) are two frameworks used to structure the implementation of prison-based yoga programs among incarcerated adolescents. The present study aimed to describe trauma-related stress and self-regulation levels in a sample of incarcerated youth and to explore yoga's effects on developing stress-reduction skills. The study collected measures on overall and in-session stress reduction and baseline self-regulation. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and public-safety restrictions, the present study was prematurely terminated after 5 months. Only pre-assessment measures were collected. Across time, participants reported a 38% mean stress reduction from the beginning to the end of a yoga session. Incarcerated youth with higher initial self-regulation levels showed higher pre- to post-session improvements in stress. The present findings provide valuable evidence that yoga practice using the combined PYP and FLAME framework can deliver practical benefits to juvenile correctional facilities. Furthermore, yoga may be used to foster rehabilitation, enhance skill development, and facilitate greater success in youth transitioning back into the community.

Keywords: Prison Yoga Project; implementation; incarcerated youth; rehabilitation; yoga.

PMID: 38155602 DOI: 10.17761/2023-D-23-00012