Deschutes jail inmates use yoga to reduce anxiety

Free program can provide anger, stress relief

Jail offers mens yoga

BEND, Ore. - Jail is a place not many people want to end up, but if they do, it's important inmates receive the tools needed to succeed once outside the locked doors.

On Thursday, NewsChannel 21 looked at one of the newest tools the Deschutes County Jail is using.

When you think of "going to jail," you probably think of metal bars, security cameras and glass panes. But twice a week, inmates at the Deschutes County Jail have an opportunity to focus their Drishti and take a Vinyasa -- do yoga.

Yoga is used is to reduce anxiety medication for inmates, as well as reduce stress, anger and anxiety.

For inmates like Michael Haro, it appears to be working. 

"It brings my mind and body together, make it one," Haro said. "I feel so good after. I know how to breathe and cope with the anger and everything I have inside of me," Haro said. 

A non-profit group, the Namaspa Foundation, partnered with the jail to bring this meditative practice to people who might need it most. Nancy Lumpkin is a regular yoga instructor at the jail and says it's amazing to watch yoga transform the inmates.

"There’s actually smiles happening," she said. "I tell people to close their eyes if they’re comfortable, so they can not worry about what people might say. I’ve seen some moist eyes, I’ve seen some quivering chins, so I think they’re taking this in and realizing this is not the end. In fact, it could be the beginning of a whole new life." 

Officials say inmates will eventually be released into the community, which could even end up being in your neighborhood — so we should all be rooting for them to make it. 

Sheriff Shane Nelson said the jail wants to provide tools for inmates to change in positive ways.

"It’s our job to make sure these individuals, that they leave our facility with every opportunity to be a productive citizen," he said. "We don’t want to see them in jail. We want them to improve their life."

Haro said, "I can go out there and deal with everything else and not want to go back to what I used to be. It makes me want to be a new person."

The men’s yoga program has only been up and running for three weeks, but even with an average jail stay of only 11 days, already, there’s a waiting list to get in the class.

"We allow them to feel the authentic them," Lumpkin said. "Not the them that’s being punished or detoxing, but the real authentic them. Because we are each amazing. It’s just a matter of tapping into it."

The Namaspa Foundation offers inmates 45 days of free yoga upon their release, and already several men have started this new mantra outside the jail walls.

A women's yoga class already has been operating for female inmates. Neither program is paid for by tax dollars.

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