The Hindu

Yoga Brings 'Freedom' to Prisoners

16 February, 1998

Tirunelveli, Feb. 16. The 'Sahaja Sthithi Yoga' programme organised by the Coimbatore based Isha Yoga Centre has helped in bringing the needed transformation in the minds of about 120 inmates of the Palayamkottai Central Prison here.

The highlight of the yoga training programme, named 'Inner freedom for the imprisoned', in the Palayamkottai prison, is the active participation of two youths - C. Selvam and V. Radhakrishnan, both of Kanyakumari district - who have been awarded death sentence in connection with a murder that took place in the court premises in Nagercoil a few years ago.

The programme is a part of the State wide welfare package being conducted in the Central Prisons situated in Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchi, Salem and Palayamkottai under the auspices of the State Prisons Department. The main objective of this programme is to create an optimal environment for establishing a disciplined group' among the indisciplined'.

The programme was conducted for three batches — each batch comprising 40 select prisoners. Yoga training was imparted for four long hours every day in the morning and it was spread over for ten days for each batch. The schedule included meditation, 20 asanas and pranayama. Such a programme in Palayamkottai Central Prison achieves significance as several anti-social elements are lodged here.

The programme has really helped in creating confidence, patience and tolerance among the prisoners. This is evident from the fact that the prisoners sat for four hours everyday for ten days continuously, even skipping their one time food.

Mr. S N Rajan, Superintendent of the Palayamkottai Central Prison, observed, making the prisoners who will not stay at one place for more than five minutes sit patiently for four hours at a stretch, that too by a missing a meal, itself is not a mean achievement'.

According to some of the prisoners, who spoke at the valediction, the programme had helped them bloom into their natural state of love, freedom and joy. It has changed the way they feel and experience life. These changes were powerful enough to be noticed by the visiting family members of the prisoners, Every participant who spoke on the occasion pleaded with the prison authorities to continue the programme and cover the entire strength of 1,500 inmates of the prison.

Some of the prison staff observed there has been a significant change In the behavioral pattern of the prisoners who have undergone this life-transforming programme. Disciplinary levels have improved and they have become more peaceful, loving and open.

Radhakrishnan, the condemned prisoner, penned down a beautiful poem in Tamil stating that the programme has helped him understand what love is. "From now onwards my answer to everything is  smile," he added. His associate Selvam is of the view that this programme enabled him to understand the Inner feelings. This duo had convinced some of the inmates to join the programme, who were earlier reluctant to do so. The clemency petitions of both these prisoners, are pending with the President.

Speaking at the valediction, Mr. Rajan urged the participants to cultivate patience and tolerance. He said the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University had introduced a special education programme offering UG and PG programmes for all inmates and called upon them to take full advantage of the same.  He urged the prisoners who underwent the training programme to be role models for other prisoners and convince them to undergo similar programmes in future.






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