I can understand how easy it might be to feel discouraged or even outraged right now with our society so divided.

I have a reason to hope, though.

Since I began offering yoga in the youth detention center in Little Rock, Arkansas, I’ve witnessed our participants and staff come together in our practices with shared joy and compassionate communication. Seeing this gives me hope that we can come together and shows me a path to revive a sense of union.

In 2022, Prison Yoga Project will emphasize developing resources and programs for these two groups, system-impacted youth and correctional staff.

Yoga and mindfulness practice provides a critical opportunity to help youth address trauma while their brains are still developing. And it helps them build resilience toward future trauma. We know trauma is a driver of incarceration and addressing it early makes good sense.

Next year, we’ll publish a youth-specific workbook to engage them with yoga practice and support their understanding of their bodies and minds through culturally competent and age-appropriate content. We’ll also develop further resources for PYP facilitators to use in their youth yoga classes.

Correctional staff also need tools for stress management and resilience. Other than the residents, no one spends more time inside prisons and jails than the staff. That time takes its toll. Studies have found that correctional officers have a life expectancy 20 years shorter than the national average. It’s shocking, really, and this early death is attributed almost exclusively to stress-related diseases. We also believe supporting staff to be more resilient will create a better environment for incarcerated people to heal.

With all of this in mind, we’ll be introducing new tools and programs to support correctional staff in the coming year. To do this, we’re working with a team of experts experienced in researching and implementing impactful programs for correctional officers.

Your contribution today is an essential investment that makes the development of these resources possible. They are tools that will be utilized for years to come, impacting the lives of thousands.

You can give online at www.prisonyoga.org/donate.

I wish you health and happiness this holiday season!

In gratitude,

Nicole Hellthaler
Assistant Director
Prison Yoga Project