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The Psychobiological Effects of Yoga in a Prison Population

Studies of meditation have recently established this technique as a mainstream clinical tool, and in an increasing extent, the health benefits of yoga have also been studied (Kirkwood, Rampes, Tuffrey, Richardson, & Pilkington, 2005; Murphy, Donovan, & Taylor; Pilkington, Kirkwood, Rampes, & Richardson, 2005). However, very rarely has the application of such techniques to marginalized populations, and its potential benefit in a hostile environment such as a prison, been the target of academic research. In this project we propose to evaluate the psychobiological effects of yoga techniques in the reduction of stress and aggressive/impulsive behavior in convicted criminals in Sweden. We propose to use a variety of psychological and behavioral measures to assess the effect of a 10-week intervention of yoga on convicted criminals in Swedish prisons (N=64 males and 64 females), compared to a control group of prisoners (N=64 males and 64 females). Behavioral-cognitive tasks measuring attention and executive control, as well as self-report questionnaires on aggression, affects, stress and sleep quality will be used.

It is hypothesized that 10 weeks of yoga will reduce aggression and negative affects such as depression, anxiety and stress, increase positive affects and enhance cognitive flexibility and sleep quality, and as a consequence of increased “well-being” will promote the success of ongoing treatment projects within the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, which aim to reduce recidivistic criminal behavior.

If this hypothesis is confirmed, our results will extend last year English findings on the benefits of yoga to a marginalized population, and may strengthen the role of today’s yoga-activity within the Swedish Prison and Probation Services.

Responsible research leader: Nóra Kerekes, Ph.D. Swedish Prison and Probation Service, Gothenburg

Contact Information

Nóra Kerekes

Page Manager: Stefan Axelsson|Last update: 11/3/2014

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