Pris­on­ers do­ing lengthy stretches

Kapi-Mana News - - WHAT’S ON - JARED NICOLL

Some of New Zealand’s hard­est women are do­ing lengthy stretches of a dif­fer­ent kind.

For the past three years in­de­pen­dent yoga in­struc­tor Chris­tine Lang­don has vol­un­tar­ily taught classes at Aro­hata Prison for the in­mates in the high security Tizard wing.

And it was not just about strik­ing a pose – the weekly classes helped in­mates deal with weight issues, anger, stress and trauma through breath­ing and calm­ing their minds.

‘‘Women talk about how much weight they’ve put on in prison, some find it quite dis­tress­ing, so they want ways to tone up their belly or tone up their butt.

‘‘[Also] you’ve got to have a calm mind. That’s the same in life, if you have a calm mind you can stay bal­anced.

‘‘The im­por­tant part is the breath­ing, be­cause if you can slow down then you can calm your mind while get­ting a strong body.’’

While the prison can hold up to 88 women, Lang­don’s classes go from a cou­ple of women of var­i­ous ages to about 20, many of whom had not come across yoga be­fore.

She said yoga was par­tic­u­larly good for peo­ple who were stressed, and had ex­pe­ri­enced vi­o­lence or drug abuse.

One of the key ben­e­fits was the in­crease in per­sonal well-be­ing and re­silience, which could lead to car­ing more for them­selves and oth­ers.

‘‘I gen­er­ally do sim­ple stretches to be­gin with and try to in­clude some­thing dif­fer­ent each week for a sun salu­ta­tion.’’

Cor­rec­tions na­tional vol­un­teer ad­vi­sor Bar­bara Jen­nings said more than 1800 vol­un­teers make a to­tal of 20,000 vis­its to pris­ons a year. About half of them are re­li­gion-based.

‘‘Some­times the vol­un­teers are the first peo­ple to have taken an in­ter­est in the per­son and that [value] you can’t buy.’’

Cor­rec­tions awarded Lang­don, along with cre­ative writ­ing tu­tors Pip Adam, William Brandt and Gigi Fen­ster, spe­cial awards as part of the an­nual Na­tional Vol­un­teer Week in June.

While Lang­don is in­de­pen­dent, the Yoga Ed­u­ca­tion in Pris­ons Trust was formed in 2009 and now has 15 trained instructors of­fer­ing classes at var­i­ous pris­ons around the coun­try in­clud­ing at the Te Whare Manaak­i­tanga Spe­cial Treat­ment Unit in Rimu­taka Prison in Up­per Hutt.

Yoga in­struc­tor Chris­tine Lang­don vol­un­teers her time teach­ing in­mates at Aro­hata Prison.

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