Prisoners doing yoga may see mood benefits, study finds

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Image caption Prisoners' mood and stress levels were monitored during the study

Yoga can improve mood and mental wellbeing among prisoners, an Oxford University study has claimed.

Researchers aimed to see if a trial ten-week yoga course, run by the Prison Phoenix Trust charity, could ease aggression and antisocial behaviour.

Dr Amy Bilderbeck said yoga could "possibly aid in managing the burden of mental health problems in prisons".

Inmates from West Midlands' category B and C prisons, a women's prison and a young offender institution took part.

The team from Oxford University's Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry measured their mood, stress, impulsivity and mental wellbeing compared to other prisoners.

Dr Bilderbeck said: 'We found that the group that did the yoga course showed an improvement in positive mood, a decrease in stress and greater accuracy in a computer test of impulsivity and attention.

"Offering yoga sessions in prisons is cheap, much cheaper than other mental health interventions. If it has any effect on addressing mental health problems in prisons, it could save significant amounts of public money."

She cautioned that yoga lessons would not "suddenly turn prisons into calm and serene places, stop all aggression and reduce reoffending rates".

Sam Settle, director of the Oxford-based Prison Phoenix Trust, said: "Yoga and meditation helps them feel better, make better decisions and develop the capacity to think before acting - all essential in leading positive, crime-free lives once back in the community.'

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