Researchers from Oxford University say that offering yoga to prisoners can improve their moods and mental wellbeing, and may also have an effect on impulsive behaviour. The study was carried out in conjunction with the University of Surrey, Kings College London and a Dutch university.
The researchers found that inmates who had completed a ten-week course reported reduced stress levels and were better at a task related to behaviour control. The study was supported by the Oxford-based Prison Phoenix Trust which gives yoga classes in prisons. One hundred inmates took part.
Dr Amy Bilderbeck and Dr Miguel Farias, who led the study at the Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry at Oxford University said:
'The suggestion is that yoga is helpful for these prisoners. 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.'
Dr Bilderbeck added: '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.'