On the 18th of June, we were invited to the conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, inaugurated by Prince Charles. We put together a panel of teenagers including Olivia, Maia (15 yrs old), Shivani, Leonie and Sophia (17). Our trustee, Dr Jo Barker who works in CAMHS as a Psychiatrist specialising in Eating Disorders hosted the panel.
We started with an explanation of what the Teen Yoga Foundation does and then moved on to Shivani who ran a short chair yoga session. Each of the teens the spoke for 5 minutes of their experience of yoga and in particular which parts of yoga helped them in which way.
Shivani explained that she had been racially bullied at school and that this had led to her self-harm over a period of 3 years. Her talk was very emotional for everyone listening. She then went on to explain how she had used yoga to support her mental health specifically and how particularly the yoga philosophy of everything we need is right here and happiness will never be found in another place or another time. She used compassion for herself and for her bullies to overcome that period of her life and as a result has not self harmed for over 2 years.
We then heard Leonie’s story of how she sustained a head injury, resulting in migraines for 6 months, and despite going to several specialists in the field over that period, nothing helped. When she started yoga, she felt better, it helped her tune into her body and avoid the migraines, she used movement, relaxation and breathwork to overcome her condition.
Then Sophia answered some questions on how she had come to yoga and how she felt that it could be useful for others to support them in their anxiety and stress at school.
Olivia shared how yoga had helped her with her Autism, overcoming anxiety specifically.
Maia also shared her extraordinary story of having a heart attack at a young age and how yoga “helped her learn to breathe and balance again”.
Dr Barker then went on to explain how she uses yoga in her practise in Southampton to support young people with Eating Disorders. She felt specifically that the gentle returning to their body, accepting and caring for the body again was especially important. She then went on to outline her vision for how yoga might be able to work as a support to those in tier 1 and 2 in CAMHS and across the board, she concluded by saying that her practise were advertising for a TeenYoga therapist to help her at her clinic.
Charlotta concluded by inviting questions from the audience, who were particularly keen to ask about the Ambassador programme. A representative from Leeds Mind wanted to know whether Shivani might be interested in running groups for her peers through Mind in Leeds. A rep from Hackney. GP surgery was interested in the same thing for her area. They all applauded the young people for their openness and confidence.
Sir Michael Dixon then came up to say how proud and pleased he was that young people were becoming emancipated to sort out their own health. He felt the sense of agency and deep intelligence of yoga was useful to the future of medicine and invited us back for the next conference. We all said we would be happy to return.
Maia’s father recorded the session and we will be able to watch it soon on the YouTube channel of Teenyoga.