Wanting to see how yoga could better equip prisoners to make life-changing decisions led yoga teacher Te Maari Gardiner to volunteer at Tongariro Prison.
“Yoga can help the men learn to relax and develop self-awareness,” says Te Maari.
Te Maari has been teaching yoga for 17 years and volunteering at Tongariro Prison for 16 months.
“I’m a qualified Satyananda Yoga Teacher and affiliated to the Yoga Education in Prisons Trust, which is a registered charitable trust providing yoga and meditation education for prisoners.”
Te Maari spends two hours a week in two units at Tongariro Prison. “Six to eight men attend each session. For most, the classes have been their introduction to yoga,” she says.
Classes begin with breath/body awareness, then warm-up and yoga postures followed by cooling down and relaxation.
“Curiosity brought them to their first class but most persevered. I enjoy seeing their progress; their stepping up to the challenge and making it their own.”
Feedback has been encouraging. “Some have told me how much better their back, neck or shoulders feel after, and that the yoga class is the highlight of their week. Most say they like how ‘chilled out’ they feel, and that night they have the best sleep.”