Confluence to rise together – the Instill conference

That quiet awkwardness at the beginning of something new. People milling in, some familiar, some not. Faces travelled from India, US, Norway, northern UK to be together celebrating the majesty of yoga. Often being a teacher can be a lonely job, travelling from school to school, teaching yoga because on some subtle level we feel the need and the calling to do so.

Coming together in our “sangha” to listen and speak with uplifting, supportive and encouraging speakers puts yoga firmly on the school map.

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Namaste in House of Commons!

It has been an extraordinary week but maybe for me personally, what was most extraordinary was on Monday evening, where everything happened in slow motion.

The exiting on to Parliament square, Big Ben towering over hundreds of people with Corbyn placards and a fervent, excited energy quivering over the entire area, which reminded me of the main square in Prague during the velvet revolution.

Entering into the House of Commons through airport like security and noticing immediately fellow yogis, simply because of their energy amidst the fervent rushing about of politicians.

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Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all

At a time when the focus of education in the UK seems to be all about exams, outcomes and results, it might be healthy and almost revolutionary to quote Aristotle, who famously introduced the idea of educating the heart.

What do we mean by this?

The Dalai Lama has been outspoken about education in the last few years using exactly the same quote to bring in the idea of teaching conflict resolution in schools through teaching methods for internal and therefore external peace.

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Pre-exam yoga practise

Exam practise

Things to do before exams

1. Sleep well (follow steps below)
2. switch off any screens at least an hour before bed
3. don’t drink coffee or alcohol or eat sugar after supper ( even better, avoid them altogether if you can)
4. have a hot bath with lavender or chamomile essential oils before bed
5. massage yourself slowly with warm (pop it on the radiator) almond oil with lavender drops (failing that, both olive oil and sesame oil that you get from the food shop are fine)
6. have a chamomile/limegrass/valerian tea 1 hour before bed
7. eat a regular times and sleep at regular times, bed around 10 and up at around 6/7
8. make sure your room is cool and clean with fresh air and your bed is warm and clean
9. read something inspiring before bed for a few minutes
10. Ujjayi breath for 10 minutes in the evening.

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Soul Food

On our Teenyoga courses, the students often ask me, “how come you are so passionate about yoga for young people?”

The answer is simple, “ When we observe such suffering and we have a solution, why would we not offer it?”

In Book 2:16 of Patanjalis Sutras, it is written ” Heyam DUhkham anagatam” “The result of yoga is to avoid future suffering”. I truly believe and experience on a daily basis the beneficial impact that the yoga philosophy, meditation practise and integrated yoga practise has on my life and on the lives of the young people I reach out to. I see it in my own classes and hear it reported through the 450 students who have taken my course and are now teaching in schools, the PRU and within CAMHS and all over the world which amounts to at least 7000 young people.

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How Yoga has changed Teenagers’ Behaviour

 “Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will steer our life and we will call it fate “ Carl Jung.

Many teachers and parents sigh and roll their eyes when the teenager grunts and stomps. Bad behaviour! Bad attitude! Disengaged! The desire to manage behaviour and create an optimal learning environment is every teacher’s first aim, without it, learning cannot take place. In yoga, as in many pedagogical circles, we subscribe to Carl Roger’s (father of modern psychology) axiom of “unconditional positive regard”. There is a belief that when we see the divine/light/goodness in the person in front of us, they will shift and change accordingly. (The greeting Namaste is an example of this – we strive to see the godly nature of everyone at all times). This ties in nicely with the psychology concept of labelling, when we label a pupil as clever, intelligent or the opposite, stupid or slow – they tend to respond to the label.

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Why do one in ten children in the UK suffer from a mental disorder?

I heard a story – an anthropologist went to study the songs of the Huichol Indians and found that they were almost all about rain. She asked the chief, “why is this?” The chief responded, “We sing about what we long for, what we miss and what we need. That is our yearning and our song. Why do you think people in the West just sing about love?”

In the UNICEF report card 11 (2011), the UK came 16th in a list of 29 developed countries in measures of well being.

Obesity is at an all time high, and self-harm is rising at an alarming rate.

The long awaited report from The Department of Health, Future in Mind, was published on the 20th March 2015 and looks at how we can promote, protect and improve young people’s resilience to stress and wellbeing generally.

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Let their voice be heard!

What would a conference about yoga, education and welllbeing among young people be, without their voice?

We would like anyone working with young people to encourage them to send in a one minute video answering three simple questions:

  1. How does yoga affect your life?
  2. How could it affect your life more?
  3. Would you like more yoga in school, if so, how?

And send the answers in to me at – for the chance of winning an ipad mini!

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This week I asked my boys why they do yoga, #broga!

My year 8 yoga class (12 yr old boys) is entirely made up of boys, more and more each week. Noisy, rambunctious and lippy, they take about 10 minutes to calm down. I am used the crazy chat by now, the giggling, the shoving and the teasing comes as par for the course.

Suddenly from being cute little kids, their voices have dropped, their shoulders broadened and they are perceived as thugs in the eyes of society, reflecting our own brutish nature, projecting it onto these relatively innocent boys.

And then comes the calm – how are you today?

“My girlfriend broke up with me”
“My chemistry teacher told me off”

“I hurt my leg in rugby”
“I have a big match tomorrow and I am worried about my knee”

“I feel so tired, can we just do yoga sleep?”

Then the class commences, the chaotic, arm balances, spontaneous partner work, until finally they beg for mercy, they beg for the peace of yoga nidra, like babies, the crawl down onto their mats, checking each other out – slowly letting go of the expectations, the constant judgment and assessments and let go…..the most beautiful point of my day and of their week, it seems.

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The Revolution is here!

Teaching young people yoga, sometimes I am aware of a clash between my values and the values of the school or the establishment I am teaching in.

I suggest to my students the ideas of collaboration vs competition, love vs fear, self care vs pushing the boundaries. Sometimes I have to be careful how I do this. Our whole society is built on fear of failure, of poverty, of loneliness and of illness (among other things) and so school emulates this and echoes these values. Yoga professes the opposite, if you have love, if you trust and believe and see others as your equal or even as yourself, all will be well with the world, in fact, all is well with the world.

The kids often come in hungry to prove something, a posture, a piece of clothing, a victory. Noisy, uncomfortable, rajasic. After the first relaxation, the noise has abated somewhat, but there is still this vibe of “look at me!”, the noisy ego and the fun, joyful child which emerges in me too!

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