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Our role

How does Freeing the Human Spirit engage with the prisons, the inmates and the volunteers? Read on to learn more.
Our Role

This is how we work in the prisons

The ideal FTHS offering is to provide meditation and yoga training to inmates on a weekly basis, with courses lasting 8 weeks. Each session includes 1-1.5 hours of yoga, followed by 20 to 40 minutes of meditation. The type of yoga discipline generally practiced is hatha yoga, commonly based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda, which has been augmented by Wim Hof breathing techniques. The type of meditative technique generally practiced is that of Soto Zen Buddhist practice. The structure of the teaching, with its yoga and zen underpinnings are all broadly consistent with the historic FTHS delivery of such services, although there is scope to include other yoga and meditation types of practice. While the teaching is currently made available through the chaplaincies of the various federal prisons, the practices are non-denominational and focus primarily on body and mind awareness.

And that’s not all.

While the ideal offering is as stated above, changes have been made to accommodate certain institutional rigidities; to effectively get the programming delivered to as many inmates as possible, and in some cases, to have courses longer or shorter than 8 weeks, merely because this was practical, for some reason. The FTHS attitude is that it is better to deliver the program than not to, and if accommodations are required to do so, so be it. No matter what slightly modified format, the inmate attendees have been uniformly thankful and dedicated to purpose in the ‘classroom’.

The following tasks

are undertaken by

Freeing the Human Spirit.

Teacher training.

There are many yoga instructors familiar with the Sivananda technique of hatha yoga (there are more than 45,000 trained teachers). This forms a good pool of talent who can be instructors, satisfying each instructor’s desire to perform karma yoga (efforts to teach, for free, to help others). Similarly, there are a great number of zen practitioners, who would be similarly inclined. The teaching in this instance would involve preparing the instructors for the institutional environments; and teaching techniques particularly suited and effective for the targeted population. The other type of teacher training that is contemplated is that of certain members of the inmate populations, who could then move beyond being adept students to becoming teachers in the institution that they are incarcerated in. Such teacher training has already been done by the Sivananda organization in the USA.

Teaching Materials

Development of teaching materials, for both teachers and students, such as that developed by Sister Elaine, ‘Becoming Free Through Meditation and Yoga’, published in 2004, and summaries of the yoga, breathing and meditation practice steps and postures, for the inmates to refer to between classes.

We are developing an organization which delivers:
  • the mobilizing of teachers;
  • teacher training;
  • ensuring that all contact information is kept current;
  • some proselytizing about the merits of the program to possible funders and government officials;
  • providing liability insurance for teachers;
  • facilitating communications between the volunteers at various locations across Canada, to discuss best practices, issues of common interest as a community of volunteers;
  • providing funding for mats, cushions, and the various tools of the trade, and
  • providing charitable receipts for donors or volunteers who are making contributions to the mission of FTHS

In my years of teaching meditation and yoga in Canadian prisons, the carriage of the men has been viscerally defined by their thankfulness and dedication to task. What better qualities could you have in your students?

Richard BoadwayPresident and Chair