Yoga Behind Bars

None of those prisoners who have done Sudarshan Kriya have come back to jail till date, shares Sadashiv Kamath, a prison program teacher, teaching actively in the Mangalore central jail.

Regular courses, where the Sudarshan Kriya and other practical techniques to relieve stress and handle negative emotions are taught to the inmates, have been taking place in the jail since 2008. Over 850 prisoners have participated in around 18 batches. Nav Chetna Shivirs (introductory programs highlighting the need for physical and mental hygiene), reaching out to over 1500 people, have also been conducted in the prison.

“The Prison Programs help inmates join the mainstream when they are out of the prison. It inculcates self-confidence and helps them let go of the guilt that they develop during their term. The course also infuses an overall positive attitude and helps them stay away from any habits of substance abuse that they may develop,” explains Kamath, “ It brings in a whole shift in the attitude of the prisoners. “

“Usually they harbor ideas of hurting those who put them in jail but with the techniques taught in the course, they are able to drop these ideas. The Sudarshan Kriya burns the seed of their crime. Once a person does the kriya, he cannot commit any more crimes.”

The objective of the course is to help these victims of stress reintegrate into society without any guilt or hesitation.  Kamath feels that the society is also able to sense their confidence and change in attitude and is therefore accepting towards them. The course gives them a new lease of life, sometimes quite literally.

“In one of the experience-sharing sessions in the course, one man got up and said that if the course had not happened when it did, he would have killed himself. He was convicted for murder and he was feeling so guilty that he fixed a date to hang himself,” recalls Kamat.

 “Once the second kriya happened, he dropped the idea and at the end of the course, he said that Guruji had given him a second chance to live. Now he is working in a reputed company.”

But as with any initiative there are some challenges.

“Many times some of the trouble-making groups indulge in negative propaganda because they are scared of losing their group members. Sometimes they even threaten us. But with Guruji’s grace, they also end up doing the course,” Kamat points out.

Once the course is conducted, there are regular follow-up sessions with the Sudarshan Kriya and satsangs. Festivals are also celebrated in the jail.

“The Mangalore Jail even took part in the recent Yogathon that took place all over India. More than 80 people participated in the event.  26 of them even completed 108 surya namaskars and over 60 per cent of them were able to do atleast 60 surya namaskars, “ shares Kamat.

He has been taking the Prison Smart Courses for over five years now. He says he is committed to continue working towards Guruji’s vision of reintegration. 

He also observes that those who have taken the programs become good volunteers when they come out.

“We are cleansing society right from the bottom. Bringing them to the mainstream is a service to society.  Otherwise when they come out, they start committing crimes with their gangs and nobody is there to stop them. We have to cut the chain,” he argues.

The Prison Smart programs are in keeping with Gurudev’s premise that those who commit crimes are not bad people; they are merely victims of stress.