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Zen in the pen: Yoga makes impact on inmates

  • Oregon Department of Corrections offers yoga to inmates
  • The class currently has a six-month waiting list
  • Studies have found that yoga can reduce aggressive behavior
Zen in the pen: Yoga makes impact on inmates

Once thought of as a fad for health nuts and new-age types, the mainstream popularity of yoga is tough to dismiss. After all, 15 million Americans practiced yoga in 2012. But even in light of that, this latest example of how pervasive yoga practice has become may still surprise you.

HLN affiliate KPTV reports that the Columbia River Correctional Institution hosts a weekly yoga class for its inmates and that the class is always packed -- and that the waiting list for it dates back six months. And to the prisoners at the facility, the classes are more than just a way to pass the time.

Read more: Full Moon Pose: Too-sheer yoga pants recalled

A.J. Martinez, an inmate who is currently enrolled in the class, says doing yoga does him a lot of good.

"It's about the mind and the body and kind of getting it all under control and finding peace inside of you," he told KPTV.

Instructor Gina Kieval works for Living Yoga, a volunteer-run facility that offers classes to people in recovery programs and correctional facilities. She said to KPTV that, when it comes to teaching the classes at Columbia River, it feels almost "selfish" for all she gets in return.

Read more: This 93-year old rocks the Downward Dog!

Many inmates have also said that, even when they leave the facility, they plan to continue their practice.

"I've seen inmates who've come in and have been challenging with their behavior and they've taken the yoga class and I've seen a change immediately," Cpl. Lindsay Noack, a corrections officer, told the station. "They're less hostile, more respectful, more engaged in their programming and that's really the goal of the institution."

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