PRISONERS are being encouraged to trade a life of crime for yoga and quiet meditation.

The Prison Phoenix Trust, based in Summertown, Oxford, is teaching yoga to hundreds of prisoners across the country.

It is now in 89 prisons, including HMP Bullingdon, near Bicester, and said sessions are having an impact.

Director Sam Settle said: “Prisoners we have worked with have been known to re-establish connections with their families, become more focused and restart their education and some have even stopped smoking or are using less medication.”

He added: “These classes are not the soft option at all.

“If you have ever tried to meditate for five minutes and just concentrate on your breathing, you’ll see it is hard work and helpful for both your mental and emotional state.”

The trust, founded in 1988, is funded by public donations and from grant-giving bodies.

Mr Settle said: “There is an argument that prisoners should be locked up and left in their cells, only able to leave to go to the bathroom.

“But if you don’t rehabilitate prisoners then they are more likely to re-offend and that is more expensive.”