Freedom behind bars

2016-06-14 10:37
SevaUnite teaches prisoners yoga as they believe true freedom is an inside job and yoga helps prisoners reach to their inner selves.

SevaUnite teaches prisoners yoga as they believe true freedom is an inside job and yoga helps prisoners reach to their inner selves.

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“True freedom is an inside job.”
This is what SevaUnite in Claremont believes. They have been teaching prisoners yoga for the past six years.

SevaUnite’s Prison Freedom Project teaches yoga and mindfulness in prisons to alleviate suffering and reduce crime.
“The affirming, healing and rehabilitative benefits of yoga, related breathing and relaxation practices for people living in stressful environments are profound. Yoga can bring people to a state of oneness, unity, acceptance and love, with ourselves and for all those around us,” says Leela Codron, SevaUnite co-founder.
The non-profit organisation practices yoga with prisoners at Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai everyday for an hour.
A class has an average of 15 to 35 people.

“We’re interested in the power that yoga has, to help an individual transform from the inside. Overwhelmingly, prisons are not rehabilitation centers but places of violence, shame and punishment. And since 60 – 90% of inmates commit crimes within three months of release, we wanted to try and create a different world where upon release, ex-cons become contributing members of society,” says Codron.

Codron says in a country where people are completely overpowered and bombarded by violence and crime, they felt that doing this work is so critical in trying to make a difference to the future of South Africa.
“Not everyone incarcerated deserves to be forgotten about. There is an extremely large prisoner population that is creative, purposeful, kind and useful to society – they just need assistance in being able to tap into their inherent selves, to re-assess what they think they are about, what they think they know. True freedom lies within, and we are interested in helping other fellow human being really unlock their potential.”

SevaUnite hopes to change inmates one prisoner at a time.
“We teach one yoga class. An inmate is inspired. He receives the free manual, starts to teach himself and then to teach others through our free correspondence course. One inmate can inspire hundreds! It’s simple. We provide inmates with the tools of yoga and mindfulness practices – through classes, correspondence courses and mentorship. With regular practice, they develop self-awareness, forgiveness and personal responsibility. This experience is so profoundly transformative, that they are inspired to share these practices with their fellow prisoners,” says Codron.

SevaUnite, together with their volunteers, identifies ways for you to selflessly serve, to experience the uplifting effects of doing good things for others.
“We see service as a path to self-discovery and personal growth, selfless service which is performed without any thought of reward or personal benefit.”
Currently they have over 250 people enrolled on their free six month correspondence course. “Those who are really interested can then sign up for our free teachers training course, where they learn to become yoga teachers by teaching three to five fellow inmates.”

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