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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