Given the profoundly rehabilitative effects of these disciplines, Yoga and Mindfulness Outreach, YAMO, aims to make these trainings available in the jails, prisons and juvenile detention centers in Miami-Dade County and beyond that to other areas of great need. Our evidence-based training assists inmates in the areas of stress-management, self- awareness, impulse control, distress tolerance, ethical action and personal empowerment.
Simple meditation and mindfulness being taught to hundreds of prisoners in one of India's Tihar Jail.
Evidence shows yoga reduces recidivism -- freed inmates returning to prison. Dr. Stephen Landau was one of our mentors when we first started almost 4 years ago.
Many inmates, like these at the Dade Correctional Institution, take to simple forms meditation like fish to water. Our non-sectarian approach brings clarity of mind, inner peace and the self-knowledge needed for personal transformation.
Guided Relaxation is an integral part of yoga and is profoundly healing. It releases deep stress and benefits the nervous and glandular systems. Our students often feel as if they are transported out of these cold, grey walls and experience instead the refreshing ocean and sunshine we all have in deep within. Yoga helps to overcome aggression, impulsiveness and substance dependency and to recover from the past trauma that most inmates have suffered from even since early life.
We complement our exercises with teachings and discussions on mindfulness, morality and personal transformation. With 2 to 3 hour classes we have time for everything! This photo from the Miami Herald shows two of our students participating in a similar program.
We were delighted that CBS Channel 4 was given special permission by Miami-Dade County to do TV reports on the Psychiatric units, previously so grossly ignored. Our yoga classes figure prominently in their inspiring new emphasis on rehabilitation. Watch it on their site at:
Miami is rightly proud of its Boot Camp program, just as these young men are upon receiving recognition for completing one phase of their training. It is detention and they have actually been found guilty of felonies, but then again it is something very different. All of these “cadets” attend our Yoga and Mindfulness as a 6-week class. We contribute to their success!
See a video of Boot Camp here:
Yoga and Mindfulness goes to Prison
YAMO goes to four state prisons in South Florida, all locate on the outskirts of our county. One is a prison for women. Every week we come in with our yoga mats and spend two to three hours doing a variety of practices, giving teachings and leading discussions. Weekend retreats are also given.
Our students say yoga helps them survive and find meaning while locked up and that the sessions are a refuge from the noise and negativity of their environs. You can see them becoming more balanced and at ease with themselves as the weeks go by!
Yoga in America's third largest Jail System
Thanks to our efforts and your support, these life-restoring disciplines are penetrating all levels of America’s third largest jail system – THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION.
Jail inmates are “innocent until proven guilty” or found guilty of only misdemeanors. Thus, they are often enmeshed in a stressful legal process, added to which they are given very little recreation and usually no work to do. For these reasons our focus is on meditation for stress release and the physical yoga for exercise. Say staff and participants, "You are making a difference."
Currently we give 9 weekly classes in 3 facilities of the Miami-Dade County Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation. They cover men, women, juveniles and mental health inmates. There are waiting list just to get into some classes.
Miami Boot Camp incorporates Yoga
YAMO is honored to be invited to the only such camp in Florida. Boot Camp is an intense 6-month program offered to some youth ages 18-24 as an alternative to their prison conviction. We help prepare them to successfully reenter society. They will then take with them the knowledge of how to access their full potential through Yoga and Mindfulness and be able to better overcome the challenges they will face.
There is a population of juveniles, suspected of serious offenses, held in county jail until they are 18 before being tried as adults. We give them a weekly class also.
Power Yoga in Juvenile Justice
These enthusiastic classes are given right in their housing units. It can be very noisy plus these teens are quite kinetic so we go shorter on the meditation and discussions. We move to reggae music and do Guided Relaxation, which they really enjoy. Literature on “ethical mindfulness” and how to meditate is distributed (even to the non-participants). Afterwards you can feel how the atmosphere has shifted and now feels lighter.
Miami’s Juvenile Justice Detention Center holds 14 to 18 year olds in 7 separate housing units. They stay from a few days to several months. "Juvie" is often a port of entry in the infamous school-to-prison pipeline. We really make a difference here! MORE TEACHERS ARE NEEDED.
There are also juveniles suspected of serious offenses held in a county jail. We give them a weekly class also.
A new Modality for Mental Health Inmates
Five of our jail classes are for the mental health units, both male and female. We give these students respect and recognition of our shared humanity, along with simple movement and mind-calming exercises to make them stronger, more balanced and more resistant to the temptation of substances and poor behavior when they are released.
These classes are featured in a recent Channel 4 TV report on the great transformation of the Mental Health wards in Miami's jails. View at:
Volunteer Coordiator and Instructor
"Hari" Herbert Heck
This organization's financial statements were independently submitted and have not been verified by The Miami Foundation.