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High Five Initiative Summer Update 2018


Welcome to the High Five Initiative Summer Update 2018.

Back in 2017, here at Yogamatters, we launched our innovative scheme to provide a more structured approach to our social impact. Through the High Five Initiative, Yogamatters is supporting and encouraging five great projects over a period of five years, projects which are all transforming lives, renewing hope and working for a better future, both here in the UK and around the world.

Yogamatters is delighted to have just sent over £1000 in total to our selected projects from the generous donations from our customers at the Yogamatters checkout over the last three months from April to June 2018. Here’s an update from each of these initiatives about their recent activities. It’s been an exciting time, that’s for sure!


Yoga session with Yogi Ashokananda, IYD 2018

Ashok Tree Foundation recognised International Yoga Day in the UK & India. In the UK, we partnered with West London Yog to deliver yoga & meditation to the community members. We had a fabulous day practising yoga and raising awareness and contributions towards our project in the UK & India. In India, we celebrated International Yoga Day with the students of Sita Devi School, the primary school we support. This year, several students led the yoga practice while teachers, staff and all students participated. It was a beautiful occasion to celebrate the impact of yoga in the recently opened community hall we sponsored, Yashoda Bhavan, through the generous support of our contributors.

The 2018/19 school year opened its doors on 5 June. We are thrilled about this school year as we are now open as a full primary school, 7 classrooms, filled with 115 students aged 4 – 10. It is our first year with all grades represented from LKG to year 5. We arranged for the new students to receive a thorough health check with the Ayurvedic Doctor. All students received new uniforms and the books for their year.

The higher grades have moved into the newly completed classrooms. Yoga & meditation continue to start each day for the entire school, we are planning to integrate yoga/meditation throughout the day, not just as one of the subjects. Stay tuned!!

The children and faculty continue to receive the lunches we provided and enjoy eating their meals in the new hall with the villagers who also participate in our Food Program. Daily, we are providing healthy/nutritious meals for nearly 150 people.


Cosmic Kids at Brighton Yoga Festival 2018

We have just held our highly successful 5th Annual Brighton Yoga Festival with almost 3000 people attending over the weekend. It featured 100 free yoga classes, and workshops with internationally known teachers such as Esther Ekhart and Cosmic Kids. The weather was wonderful and the vibe chilled and yogic. Feedback from the event has been extremely positive.

In the week before the Festival, we received confirmation that a grant application had been successful to run a pilot project for yoga and mental health, with support from the local Mind charity. We are already supporting or directly organising other community yoga outreach projects for yoga in local schools, yoga for women recovering from abuse, yoga for teenagers in a deprived area of the city, inter-generational yoga bringing together the elderly and very young children, and yoga for LGBT youngsters. We also have plans for yoga in prisons, yoga in the NHS, and yoga for special needs children.

Our work has expanded hugely in the last few years and we now feel ready to develop our infrastructure to cope – so we have launched a Crowdfunder Campaign to enable us to support more outreach work, to take on a part-time organiser and a small office.  Davy Jones, Brighton Yoga Foundation


On retreat with Womenzone

July has been a time to recharge our batteries and re-energise our souls after a super busy few months. Our third Edinburgh Yoga Festival in May raised over £5000 towards Edinburgh Community Yoga outreach projects. It was a huge effort to pull this off, and huge thanks to Laura and our amazing team of volunteers for making it happen, and to Yogamatters for ongoing support with the event.

May also saw us run our second weekend retreat for women in our Womenzone project, a weekly yoga class for women affected by trauma. This was a wonderful weekend filled with sunshine, good food, communing with nature and lots of yoga, walking meditation and relaxation giving women who rarely have the opportunity to make time for themselves or support their wellbeing. We also were able to have our photographer Octoabi present, thanks to funding from Yogamatters, to capture some of the magic. It brought me deep joy to watch Alison, one of our very first outreach participants and our newest yoga teacher, come into her own and support the group with her gentle confidence. We hope that Alison will lead the way for us to grow this partnership with Shaura Hall at the Araucaria Project of supporting outreach students advance their yoga journeys through financial support and supervision.

We’re also delighted to have got our Big Lottery funded project going, in collaboration with Ourmala in London, teaching English and yoga to BME women in Edinburgh. Naomi and Sarah have got this class off to a great start, and we look forward to its growth.

Then there is the small issue of our house move! We have just moved all of our public classes over to the home of Beetroot Sauvage, a brilliant social enterprise focusing on vegan food, community space and other great things. Collaborating with Marie-Anne, Gary and their team feels like a good fit for us, and we have been blessed with an enormous and really gorgeous, airy yoga space.

With lots more in the pipeline, including a couple of great fundraisers and community events and of course plans in place to develop more outreach projects, we’re continuing to take the benefits of yoga to some unlikely places. We are also running our ‘Fundamentals of Yoga Outreach’ weekend workshop in July and September in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively.   Lorraine Close, ECY


Stretch your body, stretch your mind…

Mind is the UK mental health charity which promises not to give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.

Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. There are hundreds of thousands of people still struggling out there.

Here at Yogamatters, we believe that yoga can promote wellbeing in a world which desperately needs it. We’ve experienced this for ourselves and in the lives of those around us.

To have Mind as one of the charities that we support as part of our High Five Initiative is a real privilege and we’re delighted to hear stories of how Mind and yoga have supported individuals on their often difficult journey towards mental health.

‘We all know that being physically active is good for our bodies. But our physical health and mental health are closely linked – so physical activity can be very beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing too.’      Mind website


Participants in the PPT residential

Over the last three months our volunteers have sent out 797 book pack to people in prison who have asked our help starting a practice in their cell. As a result of taster workshops we’ve held in recent months to start weekly classes, three have now begun, one of which benefited from yoga equipment donated by Yogamatters.

We also visited HMP Gartree with a group of volunteer letter writers. We spent time on the Theraputic Community and PIPE (Psychologically Informed Planned Environment) units. Both of these are for men convicted of serious offences who are now committed to making deep changes to their lives, partly through psychological intervention. We try to arrange a prison visit every year for our volunteers so that they can stay in touch with what it’s actually like in prison, and meet and ask questions of some prisoners. It’s also important for PPT staff who don’t regularly visit prisons, such as myself. On this trip, an assumption I had challenged was that prisoners tend to have regular family visits – on a unit of around twelve men we visited, only two of them were ever visited by family or friends. This insight helped me to understand the deep importance of our letter writing. In the last three months, we sent 116 letters, many to people with few other friendly voices in their lives.

We also held our biennial residential yoga teacher training, Teaching Yoga in Prison. During this 5-day course, teachers learn the skills and approach they need to offer yoga and meditation in secure settings, including security, boundaries and dealing with specific populations such as women and young offenders. The event was a great success: one participant started a new class in prison the week after the course!                   Lucy Ayrton, Prison Phoenix Trust

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