Present Gift

Last week I had the privilege of spending time with 23 students and 7 teenagers in the South of Spain. There was no Wi-Fi, TV or other distractions. It was a good 20-minute uphill hike to the nearest village. We all found the daily meditation and yoga practise a beautiful reminder of how to slow right down and be present.

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Instill conference clash

After some reflection, we have decided to postpone the Instill conference to the autumn. A key reason for this is that since setting our dates, we have noticed that the conference dates clash with one of the largest yoga festivals in the UK in Reading, which many of our potential participants would like to go to.

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Yoga vs Christianity among parents

“Yoga cannot open people’s hearts to God” says Pope Francis. There seems to be some confusion, which cannot be ignored.

Is yoga a religion? Is it contrary to my Christian faith? Does the word God even feature in yoga classes?

Lets be clear! Yoga is a philosophy, a science of well-being, pre-dating Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism (and definitely Christianity!) and deeply influencing them all. Yoga has existed and flourished for thousands of years (maybe 7000). However, in no text or system does yoga require you to have a belief or faith. Rather, it is a system, a science of well being, very different from religions, since yoga incorporates practical applications on how we exercise, breathe, think, relax and eat.

The definition of religion is one of faith and ritual. Yoga, however, is about experience and practise.

For many Christians, particularly Catholics,  mentioning controlling the mind can be a massive trigger. Many parents are scared that the yoga will “control the mind” of their child. We could, instead, talk of calming or stilling the mind, in order for it to be more positive and focussed.

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Reflections on Africa

Arriving in Charles de Gaulle Paris airport, the cool, clean floor, the manicured hostesses and the orderly queues were a sight that should feel reassuring, comforting and familiar, but after just 8 days – I feel alienated.

The body aches for constant touch, senses ache for comforting sounds, smells, connection, in this sterile environment.

I am confused – we go to Africa to “help”, but as so many aid workers, we come back wondering who is actually being helped? In economic terms, it seems clear; we, the privileged West help the less privileged countries to become more stable, “civilised”, wealthy, healthy.

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From trauma to joy in Africa

The bashed up Nissan appears on time – nods of approval and respect from the onlookers. This doesn’t happen often! Bumping along on sandy tracks into the centre of town, we pass women with massive plastic buckets balanced firmly on heads, filled with more plastic – shoes, flip flops and kitchen rolls. Her vibrant dress sways with her head held high. Boundary between car and pedestrian, between oncoming traffic and us is blurred to the point of questioning –  are we driving on the pavement? Is it right or left hand traffic here? And bump, another dust cloud billows into the car and plasters our sweaty bodies with a film of dirt.

We have a meeting at the Army Headquarters to speak to the officers about the importance of yoga for the army and for the country. Their corporal and many of his soldiers are participating in the course, inhaling every word, every suggestion. Their motivation is unified – “to make the country great again.” After two decades of unimaginable suffering, Sierra Leone is determined to find peace, especially within the army, where they were in the frontline of horrors only known to us through video games, leaving many deadened and numb. These soldiers see greatness differently from our brothers n the WEst, when asked Corporal Felixon says “I believe passionately that yoga can unify us, bring love and peace into our hearts and when we have it in our hearts, then others will follow – schools, hospitals, everyone!”

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The end of Sportivate?

Sport England have funded 1 in 7 active graduates of Teenyoga, either by paying for the course or by grants for teaching yoga classes to young people.

However, this is changing. Sportivate was a fund set up after the Olympic Games running for 6 years, to support more interest in sport among young people in England.

2017 sees the end of the Sportivate funding. Last week, I had a meeting with several managers of Sport England. It is clear, that although the funding has come to an end in half of the regions, there is still some funding for Year 7 in 27 regions. These applications need to be in by around the 17th of February.

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Christmas lesson for teens

This time of year, it can feel like we are working against our own bodies, pushing ourselves up out of bed when its dark, taking vitamins, supplements, coffee, chocolate or pro-plus to keep going until the mid-winter feast which pushes us even further into activity and consumption.   I have had the benefit of slowing down almost to a halt this past few weeks and I watch how the teens are pushing themselves to fill in UCAS forms, preparing for Mocks, getting on buses in the dark and coming home in the dark.

As yoga teachers, we are in such a privileged position, we can nourish and care for these precious souls, offering them solace in this frantic time, teaching them to slow down completely. Their bodies are telling them to sleep (91/2 hours per night between 13-19) yet most of our teens sleep on average 6 hours per night.

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