Yoga Behind Bars: A Light in Every Cell

Olivia Silver is the Development Director at Yoga Behind Bars. She is a certified yoga instructor with thousands of hours of training and teaching  in vinyasa, anusara and jiva mukti asana.

Yoga Behind Bars is a volunteer-led nonprofit that heals lives and society through the transformative power of yoga. We believe in the ripple effect and innate goodness; every student has a family waiting outside. On the day they re-enter civil society, they will have tools to help them succeed instead of recede. Our service facilitates social change from within.

In its early years, Yoga Behind Bars was sustained by the heart and commitment of two courageous yoga teachers. The organization was created in 2007 after founder Shaina Traisman volunteered as a yoga teacher at the King County Jail in downtown Seattle. The need staring at her each week was much larger than one person could meet; not only did her students want more classes, but other jails heard about the class and requested access, too. Shaina found herself deeply moved to action. It was clear to her that the yoga community on the outside needed to come together and serve these aspiring students.

Currently, over 100 students participate in a weekly Yoga Behind Bars class. Classes range from 60 to 120 minutes and include asana (physical poses), pranayama (breath work), meditation, and philosophy. We do not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all curriculum, but instead customize the program to meet the specific needs of the students and facilities. Through consultations with students, staff psychologists, and correctional officers, we ensure that each of our programs have integrated impact.  Though our certified volunteer teachers come from a wide range of Yoga backgrounds, they converge in this desire: to be the teachers that their students need. Everything we do is to support that aim.

Our students are dedicated men, women and youth behind bars. Our teachers are fostering a shift for the whole person. Our students are doing the same for us. Physical freedom may not be possible at the time of their service, but inner freedom is.

We are so moved by the journey our students take – here are some heartfelt testimonials from a class at Washington Women’s Correctional Facility in Gig Harbor. Yoga Behind Bars has been teaching classes there since 2009. We offer one weekly 2-hour yoga class to adult women of various security levels. We will soon be offering weekend yoga workshops later this year.


Become a Friend of Yoga Behind Bars for just $15/month and get a cute tote bag, a special “Friends Only” yoga class and the knowingness that you have just transformed the lives of our students, their families and your community! for more info.

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