Chennai / June 19, 2021: Tamil Nadu’s biggest program to teach yoga to jail inmates, initiated by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math in 2019, has touched the lives of over 5,500 prisoners, both male and female. Trained Amrita volunteers have been teaching prisoners techniques such as breathing with awareness, self-analysis and emotion control in the form of Amrita Yoga and Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique (IAM Technique). The ongoing program has been conducted in more than a dozen central prisons across the state till now, including in Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Pudukkottai, Vellore, Salem, Cuddalore and Tirunelveli. About 500 jail inmates were also trained online during the first two months of this year, considering the pandemic situation.
Said Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, the Vice-chairman of the Math: “Usually those who commit such violent crimes have lost their sense of purpose in life. Their peace of mind has disappeared, and they don’t know how to align themselves with the greater good. Still, many prisoners when given a chance, feel inspired to achieve mental and physical healing. It was Amma’s resolve to try to uplift such people. Thus. She decided to offer them training in Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique. IAM is a unique tool that helps its practitioners to handle his or her emotions and channel them positively. This type of training helps the inmates immensely, reducing stress and helping them to overcome the various challenges they face.”
The meditation and yoga techniques are taught by 50 trainers certified by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. Any prisoner can participate, irrespective of race, religion, caste, creed or gender. All kinds of prisoners have benefitted from the programme, including those convicted of violent crimes such as attempted murder, rape, assault and robbery. The batch size of prisoners for training varies from 50 to 120 inmates. The participants are trained for three days for 2.5 hours daily in the offline program. Even one year after the first session, many prisoners have maintained a daily practice and found both mental and physical health benefits.
Added Swami Amritaswarupananda: “Suicide is the leading cause of death in prison. More than 78% of the inmates who participated said the Amrita meditation and yoga have alleviated their depression and improved their sense of wellbeing. The yoga technique involves breathing with awareness, which directly impacts one’s thoughts and emotions. Many prisoner-practitioners have been able to experience a greater degree of peace of mind through these techniques, which is helping them tremendously. Considering the positive outcome, the Ashram has been requested to conduct this program on a routine basis for both inmates as well as the prison officials.”
As part of the program, the inmates are taught the 20-minute version of the “Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique” (IAM Technique) to reduce their stress levels. The session also includes an invocation, philosophical discussions and chanting of a universal prayer for world peace and happiness. The prisoners are given a certificate of participation, which not only encourages them but is also useful after their release.