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Taking yoga behind jail walls

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MISSOULA -

A popular trend sweeping the nation is now happening in Missoula: Yoga Behind Bars.

The Missoula Detention Center is offering inmates yoga to aid in their rehabilitation and for many, their eventual return to society.

It looks just like your typical yoga class. The moves and breathing techniques are the same, but the outfits are a little different, and the setting usually includes a locked door.

However, just like yoga in a regular setting, this practice inside jail walls is helping inmates become calmer individuals.  

A couple days a week inmates in the Missoula Detention Center line up for the hour long yoga program "Freedom on the Inside: Missoula Jail Yoga."

The class, which celebrate its one year anniversary in June, is very popular. Lt. Jeff Rodrick, the training supervisor and volunteer coordinator at the jail, says it's always a full class, usually even a wait list. After spending hour by hour, day by day inside the jail, yoga gives the inmates the sense of not being incarcerated and makes them feel like a person again.

Program founder Erin Giefer says often times when people get in trouble or have done something wrong, they didn't take time to think or wish they acted differently.

Yoga helps them take a moment to pause before reacting to things, and Giefer says it could help them from becoming repeat offenders.

"Bringing the yoga program into the jail allows for inmates then to be introduced to a way to connect to their own inner resources and potentially, in the future, it might contribute to them making different choices than what brought them in here," says Giefer.

Even though the program is only offered a few times a week, Rodrick says inmates carry the practice with them beyond those couple of hours. Many practice yoga on their own time or with a partner.

Giefer says they are looking into ways that inmates can continue their yoga practice once they are released, possibly looking into a voucher program where they can attend yoga classes in the community.

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