Clewer, L. (2021). Revealing, healing and transforming: An intuitive inquiry into women who teach yoga in jails and their stories of self-healing [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Middlesex University.

Most psychological research into yoga in jails examines emotional and behavioural outcomes of the practice for inmates, but there has been scant investigation into how yoga teachers experience teaching this population. Likewise, contemporary Western yoga research has focused on exploring the physical, mental and emotional benefits of postural yoga and meditation, while it has neglected exploring the self-healing potential of Karma yoga (selfless service). Although there is a flourishing global community of yoga practitioners teaching yoga in jails as part of their commitment to selfless service, there is little or no research into how this practice might facilitate self-healing for those who engage in it. This intuitive inquiry seeks to address this problem by asking how teaching yoga in jails may contribute to self-healing for women yoga teachers. A purposive sample of seven women who teach yoga in jails was developed, and semi-structured interviews employed to gather data from the women. Chaos, calling, place of suffering, revealing, sharing, magic, resilience, and authenticity, emerged as final themes from the data, echoing episodes of classical myths of individuation, constellating into five archetypal stages of self-healing: separation, initiation, purification, expansion, and integration. A key finding was that teaching yoga in jails enabled participants to recover and re-integrate projected elements of their wounded selves as they deepened their embodiment, and attuned empathically and somatically with inmates. The research concludes by suggesting that more research is needed into how practicing Karma yoga in contained environments with symbolically significant others could provide opportunities for all involved to expand their sense of self beyond dualistic notions of victim-victimiser, student-teacher, and saviour-saved.

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