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 teaching Qigong in Folsom prison in California and Penal and Drug Rehabilitation at the Kansas Correctional Facility for Women.
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.
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.
Yoga and Meditation Improve Life Behind Bars and Beyond. Studies 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.
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.
Meditating behind bars: How yoga in prisons could cut overcrowding. This article also talks about the Prison Yoga Project.
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.
Judith Trethway, 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.
Justin von Bujdoss, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, has been leading secular meditation for Rikers Island correction officers for more than a year.