by Gerald Epling

If you were to ask a group of prisoners how they feel after a 10 week course of yoga, they would probably say, “Better, thank you very much.”  This is what a group of researchers found when they set out to discover what Yoga could do for inmates.

Participants in the study reported …

1.  An increased sense of well-being.

2.  Lower levels of perceived stress.

3.  An overall reduction in psychological distress.

This reduction in psychological distress is interesting because the prisoners all have one thing in common – the stress of being in prison.

In addition to the three benefits already identified, there were improvements in executive functioning and impulse control, which leads to less impulsive behavior, but not necessarily less aggressive behavior.

Of the 177 people who were recruited for the study, 116 finished all ten weeks of yoga class and were evaluated for changes in mental health.  The drop-out rate along the way is not unusual for a psychological study.  Typically, people are free to participate or not.  They can start, and then drop out at any time; for any reason.  If people have an adverse reaction to the yoga classes, they can push away from the experience.

The drop-out rate leaves some open questions about the 30% who weren’t evaluated.  Why did some stop going to yoga class?  Why did 51 participants attend all ten weeks of class and then choose not to be evaluated?  Did they get busy, or were they just bored?  We don’t know the answers to these questions.

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Relevant Reading

Participation in a 10-week course of yoga improves behavioural control and decreases psychological distress in a prison population.