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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The power of the teens’ voices at Instill

At the weekend, I had the privilege of hosting and attending the Instill conference about yoga for young people in London. I was struck by the powerful voice of a group of teens who concluded the day. 

They ranged from 13 to 18 years old and spoke passionately and eloquently about facing mental health challenges in their short lives. One girl recounted that she had tried 5 different therapies to try to relieve her crippling anxiety without any luck. Finally, she found yoga. Her experience, like the others, was that when she started to release tension in the body and the mind, she became more able to control the mind and guide it towards a more positive way of thinking. As she started her path of reflection and in-time, she felt more able to unhook from social media and connect with herself and more deeply with others.

The final speaker, Flo, 13, mentioned that they all know someone who takes drugs to alleviate some kind of mental illness, they are only too aware of the problem, but why have they not been given tools to support them and resolve the issues? She found yoga and wants it to be in the curriculum. 

This student-led approach to life-long learning – embedding a skillset into their life for the better, is the way forward, to reach out to young people and empower them to support themselves and each other in ways that are meaningful to them.

We need to empower young people to find their own truth, their own path and their own  future which I firmly believe is full of hope.

From Nicki Ledgard

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Thought for the day

Yesterday in my village, big red poppies popped up on lamp posts along the pavements. Remembrance day- it is with mixed emotions I gaze at these reminders of bloodied battlefields and realise how lucky we are to live in a time of peace.

Every year on the 21st of September we celebrate the World Peace Day with yoga sessions across the country. The reason is simple, we experience that when we are at peace with ourselves then we can be at peace with others.

On a daily basis, we are at war, resisting others, resisting the status quo, even resisting ourselves due to the impression and misunderstanding that we are separate individuals, disconnected and alone.

Yoga is a method to find inner peace, through a series of actions such as body movement, visualisations, breathing techniques and physical and mental relaxation. We connect deeply with ourselves, our mind with our body, ourself with the other person, our spirit with God. We integrate our conflicting feelings and emotions, aligning ourselves with the flow of life.

Maybe for some of us it is easy to see the connection between feeling well and being kind, considerate and thoughtful. But it might be less easy to allow ourselves the permission to go ahead and spend time on ourselves, caring for this vehicle, our body and the instrument, the mind, in order that they may work in harmony and at full capacity.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of stepping inside the Palaces of Westminster to talk about yoga as a methodology to support the mental health of young people. At one of the meetings an elderly peer of Indian descent piped up quietly, “yoga saved my life – after my first heart attack, I started doing yoga at my GPs suggestion and I would suggest we offer it to everyone”

On Remembrance day in London this year, not only will there be poppies but there will also be a group of young people coming together to talk about yoga in education as the way of coming into equilibrium with themselves, each other and the world at large. I feel proud to be part of an organisation which is giving the voice to young people to explore their agency in their own wellness.

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Yoga on Remembrance Day – A powerful reminder of the importance of peace

It has struck me several times that we are holding the Instill conference this year on Remembrance Day (11th November), in remembrance of those who gave their lives in war. The link to me is obvious as it was to the young men in Sierra Leone, where I have been teaching. How does a yogi go to war? The link between inner equilibrium, peace and connection and the outward manifestation of it, is tangible for anyone who practises yoga. The link between inner peace and the future peace of our country are obvious (notwithstanding the story of Arjuna.)

This year has seen an exponential rise in the interest of yoga among policy makers, due the fabulous work that has been done by the Indian Government in promoting yoga.

Sitting at the Houses of Parliament speaking in favour of yoga in schools, I need to pinch myself as I remember schools rejecting yoga outright over ten years ago. Today, yoga is in fact being practised by MPs, Lords and Ladies alike on a daily basis at the Houses of Parliament as well as in prisons and schools across the UK.

The Instill conference is an opportunity to bring this diverse and passionate group of activists together and to showcase these differing and complementary ways of implementing yoga for the common good among young people.

We have workshops on yoga in prisons, yoga and exam stress, yoga and gender, yoga and addiction and yoga and creativity, among others. We will also be revealing the latest results of our survey on yoga for young people which is very encouraging. Dr Cartwright from Westminster University is also going to share some of her results with the audience from the Big Yoga Survey which reached thousands of people and shows some astounding statistics on the impact and reach of yoga in the UK today.

To end the conference, there will be a panel of young people who have been empowered to lead a session on their impression of yoga in lives of the young of today.

I do hope you can come and join us. If you register with the foundation (which is free) your ticket is reduced to £75. However money should not be an issue, so please feel free to contact us if you need some financial assistance.

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