Yoga therapist talks reducing stress in a local jail

“From an early age, I was fascinated by the human body in motion—all the shapes, feelings, and emotions that could be explored and expressed without words and the muscle memory that came with practice and repetition,” writes Michelle Arington, C-IAYT, in her profile for the Spring 2022 issue of Yoga Therapy Today

Arington’s experience as a ballet dancer led her to yoga, and her yoga studies to training as a yoga therapist. She then offered yoga therapy in a wide range of settings—including at a local jail in her hometown of Athens, Georgia.

“My first job as a yoga therapist was at a nonprofit counseling center that was open to offering complementary holistic therapies to their patients. Through them, I partnered with the Drug and Alcohol Veterans Accountability Court, teaching yoga and meditation to eligible veterans who participated in the program as an alternative to incarceration for drug- and alcohol-related crimes. I also developed a yoga and mindfulness program for incarcerated women at the local jail, where I continued to volunteer for 7 years.”

During those 7 years at the jail, Arington taught incarcerated individuals breathing and relaxation techniques—plus guided them through movements designed to release tension from the body. The response was consistently positive, with inmates sharing that they felt less stressed and slept better. One researcher also measured participants’ anxiety levels. The group’s anxiety score markedly decreased from severe to minimal/moderate over the length of the program. 

In her 25 years of study and practice, Arington has learned many lessons along the way. “I have recognized that affirming the divine light in others who haven’t seen it in themselves changes lives,” she explains in her YTT piece, “and that something as simple as breath can be a powerful tool of hope, restoration, and transformation.”

Read Michelle Arington’s full profile from the Spring 2022 issue of Yoga Therapy Today here

Learn more about Arington’s volunteer work to inmates at the Athens jail here.

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