Sahaja Yoga meditation is or was practised in various countries in jails or in centers for drug addicts. This method is known to relax and to help the persons to get rid of dependence state from various substances: alcohol and drugs for example. The benefits of Sahaja Yoga are many. Medical studies have proven that this meditation reduces levels of stress and tension. Many practitioners of Sahaja Yoga have stopped smoking, or taking alcohol and drugs.
United States: Rikers Island, prison of New York, programs in 5 areas
Sahaja Yoga meditation programs were held at Rikers Island in New York, from 1999 to 2001.
Before meditation, the prisoners were loud and very nervous. Tension and aggression permeated the halls. After sitting quietly putting their attention inward, they were becoming transformed. They would all become peaceful and relaxed.
Inner turmoil was replaced by smiling faces and shining eyes. After the meditation and the awakening of their kundalini, the prisoners’ response was always the same, “I feel so good and relaxed. Thank you!”
The sixty to ninety minute meditation workshops were held for the prisoners, but often the staff would participate because they would feel the peace and silence emanating from those meditating.
We held programs in five areas of the prison.
The first area was the section that included prisoners with medical problems. These programs were given once a week for two months.
The second section was the area of the prison that held all male prisoners who were not ill. In this area, the enthusiasm that these male prisoners felt during these programs was incredible.
We were in this area for 5 months. The lady responsible for this part of the jail helped us a lot.
“I want to give these prisoners whatever is good for them and whatever will keep them from returning to Rikers Island. I know that Sahaja Yoga is very good for them.”
The third area was in the prison drug rehabilitation center that held and treated all those involved with drug violations. This area contained the greatest number of prisoners. There were at least seven huge, overcrowded rooms that contained at least 50 to 60 prisoners each.
We remained in the area for about 9 to 10 months.
We held also programs in the women’s area and this lasted for two months. These women were incarcerated because most had violated drug laws. We learned that most of them had been abused as children and that the majority of their parents had been alcoholics and drug addicts.
Finally, we held programs at the juvenile detention center, for teenagers between fifteen and nineteen years of age. This also lasted for about 2 months. Surprisingly, many of these teenagers were already familiar with meditation.
For one month, we also held programs for the staff.
Testimonies of other yogis who were teaching the prisoners:
Herbert R.: "In the center of rehabilitation, there were 7 huge rooms with 60 inmates in each. We were teaching them yoga there in the middle of the beds. Those who were not interested where staying behind. The first day, I saw many rock faces arriving. But during the meditation, these faces became like children faces!"
Maryanne B.: “In the room for drugged people where I was, I could hear a pin drop. Even the men who did not participate were respectable and whispered not to disturb those meditating. It was as though something special was taking place."
Jerry M.: "The very first program was held in an area with prisoners who had medical problems. The guys were all lined up and came in shackles; in chains they were meditating! Some also came in wheelchairs."
Sahaja Yoga Programs in Indian jails – 1998:
The first programs in jail in the World started in India. Courses were done first for the Police of Bombay. Then authorisation was asked to go to the jail of Nasik (near by Bombay). The first program started with 300 inmates!
There were meditations every day and after 6 months, the prisoners were very satisfied to find a big amelioration in them. An inmate took the responsibility for the new programs. A newspaper wrote an article that the yoga is changing the life of inmates.
Integrated in an action of rehabilitation, various programs of Sahaja Yoga took place in the jail 2 hours per day. An inmate who is following the courses told us "I couldn’t sleep any more. During nights and nights, the desire of revenge was burning me. But now, I am no more intoxicated by anger. The Yoga helped me to go beyond my problems. I could forgive. I can sleep and I feel more peaceful. I learned a new art of living."
Courses were done for women in the jail of Johannesburg. The social worker gave the authorisation with the director. The ladies were very interested but quite unsatisfied when the programs had to stop because the social worker was going to another jail.
Courses started in June 2004, after a visit to the director and to the one responsible for the Penitenciar Administration. There are programs of 2 hours, twice a week in the jail of Ouagadougou, the main town of the country. 35 inmates are participating regularly.
The cells being opened in the corridor during the day-time, the inmates are speaking about Sahaja Yoga to their friends. And every evening, they meet each other in the same cell to meditate together. The yogis in 3 months of teaching became quite popular among the inmates.
The programs are going to be extended to the women, to the juvenile, and even to the guardians.