According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 2.3 million US adults were incarcerated in 2016. The US incarceration rate is the highest in the world. Mental health problems including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are common among prison inmates.
Recent research reports yoga can reduce depression and improve mental health among prison inmates. A 2018 randomized study published in the Journal of Psychiatry evaluated the effect of yoga practice on the mental health of inmates. Swedish researchers administered either 90 minutes of yoga class or fitness class (control group) weekly to 152 Swedish prisoners for 10 weeks.
The Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) assessing psychological distress and other self-reported measures were obtained from the participants.
The researchers found both groups had improved symptoms of psychological distress with decreased anxiety, depression and hostility. The yoga participants also experienced improved improved memory and concentration and decreased paranoid or obsessive thoughts.
"The provision of opportunities for prison inmates to carry out physical activity in general and yoga exercise in particular can be an important tool for improving their reintegration into society and for helping them lead a drug free and law-abiding lifestyle upon release," the study authors conclude,