Thought for the day

According to one of the most ancient texts, yoga is about avoiding future suffering. It does
this in many ways. When we train our body to be fit and healthy we are less likely to fall ill.
When we train our mind through meditation and special breathing techniques, it is less
likely that we suffer anxiety and depression. But more than this, and the area that is often
overlooked is the philosophy of yoga, which presents human beings as all belonging to one
energy – connected – and divided only by the false notion of separation and individuality.
There is even an understanding that death doesn’t really exist, we simply drop our body. If
we choose to embrace this belief system, there is really nothing at all to be afraid of. We
start to choose love and empathy, not fear.

Then we start to learn from our experiences and simply see life as a series of lessons which
bring us closer to connection, we explore each experience, whether pleasant of unpleasant
as a step towards liberation from suffering. Then we step into life with curiosity, openness,
acceptance and love, the four elements which constitute a joyful and expansive life,
according to Mindfulness expert Dr Dan Siegel. So maybe that can encourage us to explore
what thought pattern or repeated experience is causing us suffering? How can that be
changed, what do you need to learn from this repeated thought, behaviour or response so
that you can let it go and free yourself to embrace joy in its fullest form?

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GAINING MOMENTUM

 

Yesterday was the 4th International Yoga Day and all over the world, yoga was being practised and celebrated in various ways. I spent the day at the House of COmmons at the APPG on yoga in society, where i found myself pinching myself again and again at the incredible steps we are taking towards the acceptance of yoga as a healthcare initiatave and as support in education.

Theorists say that an idea goes from Ridicule to Rejection to Acceptance. Any of us who have worked in yoga in education or even yoga in general can bear testimony to this. In the 70s Yoga was seen as cultish and hippie, in the 90s it became fashionable among the cognoscenti and today it is being rolled out in all areas of society with government getting on board. Yesterday at the House of Commons, I was invited again to participate in a meeting for the APPG on Yoga at which I represent the Education vertical.

Listening to the peers and experts speaking about yoga and yoga in schools in particular, it is clear that we are at the beginning of a burgeoning surge in interest for yoga. Julie Montagu spoke eloquently about the importance of bringing yoga to everyone as she shared her personal journey from anguish to joy and went on to reiterate the importance of using social media to bring awareness to the general public.

Dr Justin Varney, who works in Public Health outlined the criteria for bringing yoga into the Health Service in a meaningful way. He reiterated that the research on yoga is fundamental and that in 2007 there were only a few meaningful research papers and today there are around 400 research papers being produced every year.  This indicates that there is a rise in interest and serious enquiry into the effects and supposed effects of yoga.  Josefin from Sweden gave us an overview of yoga in Prisons all over the world, from Mexico to India and Sweden.  She gave us some beautiful quotes from prisoners who felt their violence and anger drop away in yoga, positing that the re-offending statistics could drop significantly if many continued with yoga outside of prison, thereby saving countries money and saving lives.

Preaching to the converted, around 100 yogis sat smiling and content that finally what they knew all along was being explored and expressed, namely that yoga brings peace and when practiced extensively could potentially change the heart of our nation, bringing it to joy.

As head of the Education vertical in the APPG, I feel the importance of bringing a solid and unflinching cohesion to the community of yoga teachers working in schools or with children outside of school so that we speak with one voice clearly and concisely, working together in solidarity. When we report to government in this way, our voice wil be heard loud and clear and acted upon without hesitation.  This is a call to all kids’ yoga teachers to come together in harmony and move in the same direction, to bring yoga to young people all across the UK in an optimistic, simple and compassionate way. I believe that yoga in schools and for kids could be the answer to so many issues that we are tackling today: obesity, anxiety, disembodiment (and all that that entails) and failing schools. Mindfulness has paved the way and the UK has been a long-term innovator in society, so let’s lead the world in this vision of yoga for children as a way to bring harmony, authenticity and joy to our kids and for our future. Maybe the yoga community could model a new way of leadership, that supports and empowers, that listens and brings together and that moves as one, adhering in this way to the fundamental principles of yoga.  


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Thought for the Day

Many young people are preparing for exams now – whether it is end of year, GCSEs, A Levels, or Uni exams. Yoga is well known to combat stress. In one study we did together with the CBeebies, cortisol (the stress hormone in the body) dropped by 30% at the end of the class, but more interestingly, the whole class started with a 20% lower cortisol rate than the control groups. This means that week on week, your stress is reducing and the benefits are cumulative.

1 – when we stretch our body, we are indicating to our brain that we are relaxed as a stressed body is a tense body.

2 – when we breathe deeply, we activate the baroreceptors in our lungs which tell the body to relax

3 – when we turn ourselves upside down, the heart gets to relax as it no longer needs to pull the blood back up from the bottom of the body

4 – we focus on one thing, the breath or a mantra, in order to train the brain to be strong and not wander or ruminate, which is the basis of so much anxiety. To be able to focus, brings success in any field.

5 – Philosophically – we distinguish between what is real and what is unreal. We look at our lives and we see it in a philosophical perspective, where we are no longer at the centre, but just someone who is learning lessons, whatever they are – this brings us into a more detached mode of thinking.

So when you get home, lie down and pop your legs up the wall and breathe deeply. Make sure your outbreath is longer than your in breath for about 15 to 20 minutes and you will soon feel a difference.

Good Luck!

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Why are young people ‘disembodied’ and how can we help?

As I was training a group of secondary school teachers, psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists last week to share yoga and mindfulness with teens, it became more apparent than ever that poor mental health of our young adults is not showing any signs of abating. As the group shared the reasons for coming on the course, many mentioned how the young people seemed disconnected from themselves.  The psychologists used the term disembodied.

Many young people, they felt, were disconnected from their bodies, viewing their own bodies as objects, to be controlled or punished with food or exercise, but not to be listened to or respected. Many live their lives as it were, outside themselves, viewed through the lens of the Instagram or snapchat conversation.

Our bodies are wise temples of information, prompts and intuition, our bodies never lie. When we practise yoga, we get in touch with our bodies and we feel into pleasure, as well as aches and pains, to discover and listen to underlying emotions.

When we ignore messages from the depths of our bodies, we are more likely to live in our minds – our minds were never meant to be our masters, they are the servants of our intuition, our knowing. But when the mind runs riot, it plays havoc with our lives and we end up out of balance.

We concluded on the last day of the course that we need to bring young people back in touch with their own bodies, so they might be less likely to fall foul of the vagaries of shifting mood states, emotions and destructive thought patterns that can lead to anxiety and depression.

We need to connect the body with the mind and recognise a third, even wiser dimension, which can guide us towards a more fulfilling life, some call it the soul or the spirit. Yoga opens us up to this possibility.

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Update on the APPG on Yoga in Society

The APPG on yoga in society was inaugurated in the House of Commons on the 22nd March. This a historic moment as it is the only government to introduce this kind of initiative, it follows in the steps of the very successfully APPG on mindfulness and it heralds a new era in acceptance of yoga among the general public.

The aims of the APPG will be thrashed out among the MPS in the coming weeks. The consultants to the group suggest interventions in schools, the NHS, the prison service and the workplace as a salutogenetic intervention that builds health among the British population to alleviate pressures on the strained NHS and schools.

Westminster university are busy measuring interventions and comparing the outcome of mindfulness vs yoga in school settings as well as undertaking a nationwide survey of 2500 yoga practitioners in the uk. The results of these papers will influence how we move forward. Warwick university and Harvard have come together to measure outcome of yoga in the workplace together with the pharmaceutical giant GSK. Currently it is estimated that 7% of the UK population practise yoga and 26% of schools offer it as an after school club or as part of PE. In a trial run by Bangor university it was shown that sick days dropped by an astounding 70% when yoga was introduced to the workplace. It seems that yoga is the magic pill that might finally drive out county towards a compassionate healthy and collaborative future.

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Yoga off the mat

When I hear of the students in Bath supporting their lecturers, I reflect on the first principles of yoga. Since the referendum to leave the European Union, the voice of young people has become more succinct. After what feels like decades of silence, it seems that this generation is engaging more in politics and the future of our country.

Having worked with young people throughout my life, I am often aware of how disempowered they feel in the light of decisions made regarding them and their own future. It strikes me that these honourable qualities of compassion, justice, hope and solidarity indicate a vitality many of us lack due to years of contraction, cynicism and fear. To stand up for what you believe in, shoulder to shoulder with others who feel they have been treated unfairly takes courage and insight and can be a timely reminder to the rest of us to reach towards an expanded awareness of justice for all.

At the heart of yoga lies ten guiding principles, which are often overlooked, including compassion, truth, discipline, contentment, purity, devotion to higher principles.

The yoga practise encourages us to act from these ideals within a framework of self-care. When we act from a place of ahimsa (compassion) – which is the first principle of yoga –  our expression will be gentle and support the greater good.  In a society that mostly encourages comparison, consumerism and rampant egoism, it is refreshing to know that there is a current flowing in the opposite direction, expanding us towards compassion and solidarity.

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BBC Thought for the Day

Teenagers are rowdy, vital, mischievous and give us a run for our money. Their task is to differentiate themselves from adults in order to belong to a group that defines them. This task needs to be met with respect and support, so that they can learn to become responsible adults. When young people misbehave, we feel the need to punish them. When little kids act out, we find ways of controlling or mitigating their behaviour. But teens are bigger, noisier and can seem more threatening. Many teenagers become rowdy because they are feeling upset, insecure, or they want to impress their friends or test the boundaries of carers and other adults who are there to protect and guide them.

Yoga teaches us compassion, it teaches us to embody what we want to see in others. If we want to see tolerant, respectful, responsible citizens, we need to embody that in the way we deal with them. We need to attempt to understand their behaviour and go beyond the chaotic exterior. Many young people are suffering from anxiety and other debilitating mental health issues and they turn to us and ask – help us to help ourselves. In my experience as a school teacher and teacher trainer, I feel we are not doing enough to support young people to navigate their emotions and find an equilibrium in a judgmental and rapidly changing world. We need to find calm and we need to teach young people to find calm, to find a space where they can breathe, relax and let go.

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Belonging

Hearts come home at Christmas – embroidered delicately on one of my Christmas decorations, made me ponder, made me reflect on belonging.  It has come up a lot for me recently. My father died a few years ago, my sister lives far away as does my mum, my boys are slowly leaving home and I divorced their father ten years ago, I was born in Africa and my mum is Swedish. I was brought up in London and live in Somerset. At a time when ex-patriots are being sent back from the USA and the UK as well as many other countries, the march of nationalism begs the urgent question – where do I belong?

I live in a Somerset village where there are two or three dominant surnames echoing among the hills and rooted deep in the clay of the earth. Families belong to the land, memories are tied to the land, its changes and how it has served them through generations.

On the occasion of my 50th birthday I felt literally drawn to the place of my birth, Kitwe Zambia – I took a bus to the hospital where 50 years earlier I was born. I wanted to enter, find the room, find the doctor and find the time when I came into this world and landed on this red, hot earth which hides diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

I felt a strange longing, a subtle recognition of the smells of bodies, dried fish, earth and other unperceived and unnamed objects and wafts on the wind. I felt I belonged, a white face among black, a privileged woman among those who had never travelled, never worked and never seen what I had seen. I belonged.

I watch my mother flying back to Sweden as soon as she can, having lost her anchor, my father, her boat steers her home, where her heart is – the land she recognises, the language that flows easily from her tongue, the subtle social hints that belong to her.

I watch my son return from university and nestle in his boyhood room, with his cat in his space, where he belongs, his internal sat nav draws him inexorably home.

We move, we uproot ourselves, we travel, we change partners and even families. The subtlety of belonging is lost.

Lonely and adrift, we search for belonging in community. Somehow, we got lost in the understanding that we can relocate, break up, start again, lose someone and just carry on, recreating our belonging again and again.  I detect a brutalisation of our needs and wants, a brutalisation of the subtler aspects of being human which are connected to being joyful, safe and feeling necessary.

We seek refuge in the oasis of belonging.

Since 2007 I have been creating communities, first here in the village, a yoga and wellbeing community, then nationally, with retreats and now globally, we create communities of teenyoga teachers, who come together to celebrate the empowerment of our future leaders through yoga. Because I’ve discovered that to belong is to feel joy.

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Thought for the Day – 4th December

Last week I was invited to speak at the House of Lords, the European Commission and a Mental Health conference run by young people.

There is a shift in people’s understanding and acceptance of yoga. The true meaning of yoga can be elusive, finding union in community, in mind and body, finding peace with our neighbours and with ourselves, releasing tension so that we can fully enjoy the present moment.

When we release tension in our minds and bodies, we find ourselves in a place of stillness, flow and joy.

Tension or what we call Chronic stress is everywhere, in the supermarket, in the hospital, in schools and even in families at Christmas. Long term stress, as so many of us know, leads to fatal disease. It makes us brutish, unkind and harsh.

Christmas for many, is stressful, as we have so many expectations of ourselves and our families, yet in the stillness of the deepest, darkest time of the year, it would be simple to tune into the pause as we poise for the turn towards energy, light and activity.

So Pause.

Embrace the stillness, turn off the TV, gift each other your presence rather than your presents, pause at the turn of the year, reflect, relax and return to your true, peaceful self, in union with all around you.

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Teen Yoga Alert

It has come to our attention that there is a training programme in the UK that uses our logo and our manual but is not accredited by us. To be clear, the only teacher trainers running the accredited full TeenYoga course are Charlotta Martinus, Yvonne Morey, Helen Clare and Sarah O’Connor. If you have received training from anyone else and they have used the logo and material from the course, I am sorry but this was not us.
 
If you would like to join our community, please feel free to contact us and we can have a chat on how to move forward together supporting young people in the best way possible. There are many events that we run which you would be welcome to.
 
In peace and unity,
 
Charlotta

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