Doing Yoga Behind Bars: A Sociological Study of the Growth of Holistic Spirituality in Penitentiary Institutions



Drawing on a qualitative research conducted in Catalan prisons, this chapter explores what role holistic spiritualities such as yoga, Reiki and meditation activities play in contemporary Spanish prisons. These practices located at the limit of the secular are increasingly present in prisons. In this regard, the chapter particularly examines the success of such holistic activities—understanding “success” to mean the non-problematisation, acceptance and rapid diffusion of such ideas and practices—in the penitentiary context. We argue that holistic activities and therapies become symbolic resources through which inmates can make sense of their uncertain situation in prison and (re)construct their self-image while also working as a “peace-making mechanism” that fits in with the institutional order. Prison staff—specifically social workers—plays a crucial role as carriers, in the Weberian sense of the term, of the ideas and values that underlie holistic activities.


Holistic spirituality New religious diversity Catalan prisons Ethnography Self-image Prison staff Weber 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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