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Sri Gurudev gives a talk on Yoga to inmates at Tracy Prison, USA, early 1970s.

Sri Gurudev poses with the Yoga class of inmates at Soledad Prison, USA,

early 1970s.

Swami Satchidananda always cared deeply about serving men and women in prison. When he was serving in Sri Lanka, he and the members of his ashram built temples for both minimum and maximum security facilities and conducted regular prayer meetings for the prisoners. Sri Swamiji and a few others were allowed to enter the prisons, give lectures on spiritual life and Yoga, and speak to the prisoners individually in their cells.


After he came to the United States, Sri Swamiji continued this service by visiting prisons across the country and giving satsangs. He also encouraged his students with an interest in this type of service to teach Yoga in prisons, and there are many moving stories of inmates who were helped and rehabilitated by this service.


The Satchidananda Prison Project – Why?
Throughout the years, inmates have contacted Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville and Integral Yoga Institutes, looking for spiritual guidance. These letters arrive in a steady stream, making it clear that there are people in the prison system wishing for a better life and for spiritual direction.



Thus began Satchidananda Prison Project, as an effort to make Sri Swami Satchidananda’s teachings more available to those who are incarcerated.



The Satchidananda Prison Project – What?

  • We offer free malas (prayer beads) to prisoners who are unable to purchase these. 

  • We offer free correspondence courses on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Living Gita.

  • We network with prison projects sponsored by other Yoga and Buddhist organizations so that we can join together in serving this very underserved population.

  • We work with prison administrations to have Yoga classes taught in prisons around the country.

  • We correspond with inmates, answering their questions about spiritual life.

  • We send spiritual books to inmates and prison libraries.

Through the generosity of Satish Daryanani (who funds the printing of all Swami Satchidananda’s books donated to the Prison Project), Satchidananda Prison Project published Bound to Be Free, a book that is distributed for free to inmates, prison libraries, and others who wish to learn more about the liberating power of Prison Yoga. Primarily a compilation of Swami Satchidananda’s (beloved teacher and founder of Integral Yoga) talks to inmates during prison visits, he teaches them how to transcend their negative thoughts and reform themselves through Yoga, meditation, and mantra.


The book is filled with inspiring teachings and parables, as well as heart-opening stories of prisoners deeply touched by Sri Swamiji’s teachings about how they use their time behind bars to connect more deeply to their spirit, inspiring fellow prisoners to do the same. The book also includes instruction in basic Yoga practices.


The Satchidananda Prison Project – How You Can Help?

We invite senior students of Sri Swami Satchidananda to help answer letters from prisoners and to send them books.

To learn more about the project or to offer assistance in any way, please contact Rev. Lakshmi Barsel via email at


or write to:


Rev. Lakshmi Barsel
Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville
108 Yogaville Way
Buckingham, VA 23921 USA

Folsom Prison Outreach

Opened in 1880, Folsom is the second-oldest prison in the state of California and was one of the first maximum security prisons in the United States. Vina Parmar founded The Folsom Prison Outreach program in 2007. Beginning on September 30, 2010, Vina is conducting a class on the Bhagavad Gita. Vina says, “The Living Gita by Swami Satchidananda, is one of my favorite translations of the Gita, so I have selected it as an introduction for the inmates at the prison.” Vina teaches a class on “Mandala Meditation” weekly. There are 17 inmates in the class, most of whom are on a life sentence in this maximum security prison. They will read one chapter per week of The Living Gita and each inmate will create their own mandala art based on the teaching that touches them most within the chapter.
SIS is happy to announce that we have donated The Living Gita books to Foldsom Prison Outreach program as part of the Satchidananda Prison Project. We are grateful to be part of this project and wish Vina and all the prisoners well.
Vina Parma

Vina Parmar, MBA, is an experienced facilitator who offers Creativity, Life and Business Coaching to help people achieve their goals and move forward in their lives. 

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