Prison yoga, meditation classes to expand across Canada

September 6, 2013

For over a decade, Sister Elaine MacInnes has struggled to raise enough funds to keep her small charity, which offers meditation and yoga to inmates, afloat.

Freeing the Human Spirit has faced an uphill battle since MacInnes first started it in 2001, when Ottawa bureaucrats initially told her there was no place for her in the correctional system.

MacInnes didn’t take no for an answer, creating her own spot in the prison system by contacting local prison officials and convincing them of the program’s merits one at a time. She and volunteers are quick to tout the program, saying it’s been able to expand …

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Prisoners look inward to discover personal freedom.

Emmanuel Samoglou: A few weeks back, while Stephen Harper was on the hustings selling a tough-on-crime agenda, Sister Elaine MacInnes was in a Brampton prison hugging convicted criminals.

“I hugged them all,” the 87-year-old Catholic nun and Zen master says warmly, recalling her visit with about 50 inmates at the Ontario Correctional Institute, where she conducted a meditation class.

Sister Elaine — as she’s widely known — is the founding director of Freeing the Human Spirit (, a registered charity that provides yoga and meditation programs to inmates in provincial and federal correctional institutions in Southern Ontario. A Zen master of the Sanbo Kyodan, based in Kamakura, Japan, she spent 32 years in the East, … Read more »