Prisoners doing lengthy stretches
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.