Tomorrow is Instill! You can still book here if needs be. And you need to bring a mat!
Instill is supported by Yoga Alliance Professionals
Tomorrow is Instill! You can still book here if needs be. And you need to bring a mat!
Instill is supported by Yoga Alliance Professionals
One of the speakers at this year’s Instill Conference is Dianne Murphy, who as a secondary school teacher since the early nineties, began to teach yoga & mindfulness to teens 7 years ago. Her strength in knowledge and delivery has grown boundlessly, teaching yoga in both mixed and single sex secondary schools and having also collaborated fruitfully with organisations including NCS and Youth Connexions. Dianne’s current role as a Wellbeing & Mindfulness Lead at an all-boys Catholic school in North London suggests that the yoga trend amongst young adolescent males is strong, yet on the contrary Dianne tells us the attempt to make yoga appealing to this group is still very challenging. Young, disappointed male teens upon thinking of the idea of yoga, often describe it as “girly”, “touchy-feely” and “light-weight” and therefore denounce its value. However this view shifts rapidly when they try it. Dianne was recently asked to deliver a carousel of yoga at a residential week for a hundred and fifty year 8 boys where groups of fifteen at a time would do a 40 minute session.
“In the morning the first groups of boys trudged reluctantly over to the field, grumbling about being ‘forced to do stupid, girly yoga’ but left with a very different opinion. By lunch time talk of yoga had spread and while the boys were eating they were asking each other what sessions they had later. We were now hearing comments such as ‘I got dat bait yoga t’ing, innit!’, ‘bruv, it’s lit – you’ll love it!’, ‘we should ask if we can have it back at school’, ‘yeah – in PE’, ‘Nah man, like every day!’”. At the end of the week when it came to ranking the activities, yoga came out as the clear favourite with over a hundred of the boys ranking it in their top three various activities
Dianne, perhaps somewhat advantageously, is accustomed to dealing with parents from her experience as a school teacher. Through this consequence, regular dialogue between teacher and parent is a given, and so Dianne is able to address and update parents on the benefits of yoga & mindfulness. By explaining how it meets the need for personal wellbeing as well as social and emotional development, the schools can then also easily see where yoga & mindfulness correlates within the current Ofsted criteria for S.E.A.L and wellbeing. This new found focus on S.E.A.L in particular means that parents are eager to know that their child’s needs are being met beyond the curriculum. However, as Dianne notes, essentially it is still the students themselves are the most effective advocates; it is their voice that best speaks of the benefits that yoga & mindfulness can bring.
Wellbeing and mental health continues to be an important issue for boys and girls. The need for wellbeing provision is increasing year on year and is being pushed up the Schools’ agenda. Despite this obvious need, funding and school budgets are being cut making it harder to ensure that yoga & mindfulness are made accessible to students. Dedicated practitioners such as Dianne need to continue the work they are doing in order to raise the profile and increase the recognition that yoga & mindfulness is one of the most affordable – and effective – methods of caring for the wellbeing of our youth. If we look at how teenagers themselves challenge everything, including themselves, then this gusto for challenges needs to be met with the same fervour of our teachers and yoga practitioners. After all, this is the generation that will take over the world! Dianne believes that if she can provide them with the tools to look after their own wellbeing, to be resilient and to be compassionate then these shining qualities will not only be enough to ensure that school budgets remain accommodating but also that these adolescents will develop into a generation of flowering positive change in the world.
Working with various gender and mixed groups has provided Dianne with valuable experience in how to adapt and modify sessions to best suit each group. Gender she says becomes recognisable beyond the binary, whilst as an observer she can distinguish both the differences and the similarities between varying groups. Yet perhaps the most profound lesson on Dianne’s journey she says is to always be genuine. “That’s especially important with this age group. For one thing, they can easily spot when someone is not genuine and will respond accordingly. Secondly, they are bombarded with superficial and unreal ideals and expectations from things like media; to which they are hyper-connected. So to redress this imbalance it’s vital they encounter genuine experiences and genuine people so that they learn the value of self-worth and become confident enough to be authentic and true – valuing themselves as unique individuals”.
Dianne will be speaking in the afternoon session at Instill on Saturday. You can still book here if you haven’t already, and if you havent reserved for the parallel sessions, please mail us as soon as you can. There is limited space and they are filling up.
Instill is supported by Yoga Allliance Professionals
One of our keynote speakers at Instill 2017 is Dr Tina Cartwright, who is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster and a Chartered Health Psychologist registered with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC). Her research focuses on understanding the patient experience and improving the management of long-term conditions and she is currently focusing on strategies and interventions to support health and wellbeing in patients and the wider population, with a particular focus on yoga and meditation. She has publications in a range of international health and social science journals and has recently been awarded funding to evaluate yoga interventions in the workplace and in the NHS.
At Instill, Tina will be sharing some of the initial findings emerging from the Big UK Yoga Survey, which explored the practice of yoga across the UK. The original motivation for the survey was that, despite the popularity of yoga and evidence of its positive effects on health and wellbeing, little is known about yoga practice in the UK. The survey investigated the characteristics of people who practice yoga, motivations for initiating and maintaining practice, and the perceived impact of yoga on health and wellbeing.
2434 adult UK residents who had practised yoga within the previous 12 months completed the survey. There was a wide range (18-92) and number of years of yoga practice (the average was 13.9 years). The principal reasons mentioned for being initially attracted to yoga were general wellness (39%) and fitness (19%). 47% however spoke of a change in focus over time with increased emphasis on stress management (18%) and spirituality (21%).
At Instill, Tina will be focusing especially on some results that are particularly pertinent from the perspective of young people and yoga. These include the transformative function of yoga, importance of the teacher in our yoga practice, the challenges involved in home practice etc. And of course one of the most important aspects for young people in the UK these days, mental health.
Instill is supported by Yoga Alliance Professionals
As Charlotta pointed out in a blog this week: “It is easy for policy makers, parents and teachers to have ideas of what is best for young people today but they face many challenges we can only imagine.”
That makes it vital for those of us who work with young people to listen closely to what they have to say. With this in mind, we have dedicated the last session of the Instill conference to a group of young people, with ages ranging from 13 to 18, will share their perspectives on wellness, schools and yoga. The aim is to embody the spirit of teen yoga, by giving the floor to them!
Asher, Leila, Robin, Rebecca, Edie and Gabe, and Lavinia (who will not be able to be at the conference), are a heterogeneous group, one manages an all girls rugby team, another does acroyoga, on horses, one came to yoga through injury, another through dance… but we will wait till the session to hear all the details.
They met together 10 days ago in Bath to share their understandings, and do quite a lot of yoga, as you can see in the pictures, with a beautiful integration of play and rich discussion.
Out of that weekend they have put together a session that will cover a range of subjects, sharing their perceptions on aspects of yoga that they find particularly useful, and sharing with us their views on yoga and mental health, physical health, and what needs to be done to improve the presence of yoga in schools.
Instill is supported by Yoga Alliance Professionals
Silvia Giovannoni will be speaking at Instill this year, on 11th November on Yoga and creativity. We interviewed Silvia about her work.
For almost 10 years Silvia has been working with teenagers as a facilitator of empowerment and creativity. Silvia says, “I embarked on this amazing journey of becoming an empowerment youth facilitator, a creative being in touch with my own creativity and sense of wonder for life again. My journey training to do this work taught me that in order to be around teenagers and for them to flourish, you need to do the work on yourself first.”
This was life-changing for Silvia and a process that brought much joy and meaning, she says, “The transformation I experience in the young people is astonishing and this is what I’d like to devote my life to: providing youth with meaningful and transformative learning experiences that awaken them to their own sense of power and purpose in the world.”
For many years, a big part of Silvia’s work was focused on a multi-arts approach and although she used yoga and movement work, it was an area where she felt there was a lot of room for development. “In my experience, young people were going through a stage of disconnection to their bodies, and it`s a time when so many negative mental narratives can be developed. This has made me want to bring more yoga and conscious movement into the mix.”
Silvia currently teaches yoga, mindfulness and movement at schools and after school programmes and finds it so complementary to the other work she does around exploring creativity. The less stressed, more confident, and at ease the young people are with themselves the more open they are to embrace their creativity and place in the world as creative beings.
Silvia has many interesting stories about her work. There are stories of deep transformation where young people have turned difficult situations around by engaging with creative pursuits. Silvia has also witnessed the young people’s ability for deep thinking and wisdom and there have been stories of self-acceptance after a history of self-harming and abuse; as well as examples of tremendous courage in sharing stories.
Silvia loves the energy, honesty and resilience of young people. She says, “They are a source of inspiration and keep me fresh and on my toes. I find that to be effective with them, I need to tend to my own creative self and speak my authentic voice. It is also rewarding to act as a mentor at times and be able to help them find their own inner light!” Silvia also loves that the work is alive, is always evolving and renewing and the fact that each group she works with has a different flavor and need; “as a teacher and facilitator, I need to be always open to respond to that. I learn so much!”
“Both myself and my colleagues have witnessed time and time again that making opportunities for creative expression within a context of care and connection is a seemingly magical key for unlocking hope and resilience. It is not rocket science but it is powerful and in my view it is exactly these kinds of environments we should be fostering more in education and in our communities. The world needs young people who can respond to the world’s issues from a place of creative connection!”
“I still feel the fields (creativity, yoga, other healing and community arts) lack the deserved presence in the typical curriculum. It is usually an after-thought, a response to crisis or one-off offerings.”
“The work I do combines my experience in working with youth empowerment through the arts and the practice and teaching of yoga. They are both complementary and powerful tools to support young people find balance and a sense of belief in their own creative capacities. Yoga brings them into self-awareness and develops their inner capabilities for regulating emotions, finding focus and grounding, while the arts gives them a fantastic tool for external, authentic self-expression. The workshops and lessons I run in schools are designed with this in mind and I find the results to have a huge and positive impact.”
Instill is supported by Yoga Alliance Professionals.
It is World Mental Health Day today, and since yoga can make such an important contribution to mental well being for all, it is an appropriate day to present another of our speaker at Instill, Dr Lucy Arnsby-Wilson, who will be focusing on yoga and neurodiversity.
Here is Lucy’s presentation of her session at Instill
At this years Instill, I will be sharing some of my personal practice and reflections of supporting hundreds of young people who are are neurodiverse using Yoga Therapy, You too, if you don’t already, might consider this also.
The older I get and reflect back over my childhood, the more I realise I have always been surrounded by neurodiversity and been fascinated by this. When I was 18 I began work with the sweetest boy, Daniel who had a diagnosis of Autism. I would visit him several times a week in Camberwell where I was employed as a home tutor. At this time, I was beginning my own yoga practice experiencing a profound connection to myself that I had not felt for some time. It has since been my greatest passion to learn how to and support others in accessing our inbuilt skills to keep us on an even keel. Seeing shared challenges, Daniel was the first person I shared some of the yoga I had been practicing. The benefits were extraordinary which led me studying, practicing and sharing yoga therapy for the past 19 years! During this time I trained as a Clinical Psychologist. Therefore, many of the people I see have also experienced or are experiencing mental health problems and trauma.
In the past 5 years, I have established a CIC which is supported by a cooperative of practitioners. We offer sessions in the community, NHS, schools, yoga centres as well as training, supervision and consultation.
The power of Yoga constantly amazes me and the young people that we serve. Here are some of their responses:
‘I feel calm and clever now I go to yoga. I think I was this before, I just didn’t feel it’
‘The friends I have at yoga make me know I am loved. I like coming every week. It is quiet and I learn about how I work and how I think which helps me to understand myself’.
“My shoulders and back were hurting before I came to yoga. Now my body is more flexible and this is reflected in my thinking and mind as well’.
Every story is interesting, each being unique and with everyone I work with, Yoga manages to gently find its way to the heart, creating a capacity to come inwards and then a way to pendulum between the inner and outer layers that we experience; to integration and wholeness. It is a hugely exciting time in the field as the Western evidence base starts to reflect what has been suggested and experienced for over 7000 years!
I am motivated to work with young people because young people are just as special as everyone else in the world and it is essential for them to realise that. Because young people are brimming with untapped potential and sometimes have not connected with that, maybe because they are do not fit into their environment or have experienced traumatic experiences and terrible circumstances. Because I want the world to see each and every young person as unique, Because each young person is on their own individual journey and where it will take them can’t be predicted. I want young people to feel that their voice matters, that they matter and my experience is that yoga can really make a difference with this.
No matter what the young person goes on to do in their lives, they will take something with them that will benefit them in ways we cannot even imagine.
Sometimes this is through strengthening a connection to self awareness and self perception. It may be through supporting restful and revitalising sleep. Sometimes it can be though the development of practices which enable reduced restlessness, cultivate a sense of peace and wellbeing and reduce anxiety or low mood. It may be through the young person feeling welcomed into and part of a loving community. It can be considered subtle or profound. By holding no expectations but offering these practices from a place of invitation, trust and compassion, this work holds no boundaries
We must talk with parents, teachers, carers and mental health professionals about yoga; the benefits for young people, share examples, present research and create strong communities to enable us to do this effectively. However, we must not forget that they too need these practices. We are all aware of the soaring rates of mental health problems in young people we support as well for those in adult hood.
In a recent poll on teacher wellbeing, nearly half of respondents said their mental health was poor, fuelling fears that growing numbers are struggling to cope with the profession’s changing demands. A significant proportion reported that they take medication because of their job. And the convener of a national mental health helpline has said that the demands of teaching are so exceptional that a counsellor should be stationed in every school (Hepburn, TES, 2017)
But how about this, how about an environment where teachers start and finish the day with 10 minutes of meditation, where students and teachers practice yoga together, finding what unites us rather than divides. I often share with them a wonderful programme ‘Get Ready To Learn’ that we piloted in schools here in Gloucestershire for 4 years. The programme requested young people with autism and their teachers practice a yoga DVD programme everyday for 12-20 minutes. Following an inset training programme and taking part in the programme on a daily basis, after 12 weeks those who attended improved concentration, attention, self regulation and feelings of well-being-and this was the young people and the teachers!
It is time to reconsider the way in which is assess, diagnose and define the problems that young people are experiencing as this leads to the care, interventions and programs that we offer. The lens of what is wrong with someone appears to have been adopted in the West. Yogas starts with what is right with someone (Cope, 2011). The more we can develop an awareness of our own internal landscape, how to manage conflict, distress and despair there, the more we can do this within our community and our society-and never has our world needed this peace more.
It is a great pleasure to be contributing to Instill and the work of the Teen Yoga Foundation, an inspiring event where we can empower young people, in all their diversity to come together.
Since 2003 Teen Yoga has been supported by Sport England, since they value the clear connection between yoga and physical activity, and the way yoga encourages young people, especially those not attracted to other sports, to move their bodies more and become fit and healthy in mind and body. To honour the transition from lethargy to activity that yoga promotes, we have been granted 5 spaces on the Bath Half Marathon 2018 for runners who wish to raise £500 each to support our work.
We are looking for people who would like to run for the Teen Yoga Foundation in the Bath Half on 4th March 2018
In addition to the work we do continuously, supporting the teen yoga community and promoting it in Parliament and other policy forums, this year we are focusing especially on collaboration with other charities who work respectively with homeless youth, at risk youth and those who have been excluded from schools. All this work needs support. There are over 20 people who work voluntarily for our charity, but we also need financial resources to carry on working. Please help us help those who can change the future of this country, one young person at a time.
Run for us at the Bath Half!
Come on board, make a huge difference to your mind and body and to those who are yet to discover the connection between the two!
Our Bath Half runners also have the chance to attend Instill 2017 free.
Tickets to Instill can be booked here.
As we look towards using yoga as an appliance to better the lives and potential of today’s youth, where better to look than to the birthplace of yoga itself; India. Joining us at the Instill Conference this year is Shirley Telles, who has worked on several committees in India dedicated to researching the benefits of yoga for young people. Her insight will be invaluable, since, through years of experience, Shirley has witnessed first-hand how challenging, but also how transforming, yoga can be in aiding the many difficult life situations and periods during adolescence. Her talk at Instill will focus on this. Shirley regrets not learning yoga earlier in life, but has devoted many years towards uncovering the amazing benefits it can have for pre-teens and teenagers.
Up to now it hasn’t been easy to convince and implement yoga in schools, ‘the objections to introducing yoga exasperated me’ she says when reflecting on her first forays into this field. From misconceptions about yoga being a form of religion to the assumption that it would somehow make children lose their competitive streak, Shirley has heard and dealt with all sorts of claims that challenge the value of her work. As a result Shirley decided to demonstrate the unique qualities of yoga therapy by focusing on more research-based work to provide her with more evidence. Joining an inspiring network of therapists, physiatrists, neurologists and yoga practitioners alike, Shirely testifies that adolescence is a key stage in a young person’s life in which dramatic changes can take place. ‘Once you crack the shell they are so soft and vulnerable. They deserve the good treatment which most of us have had. Apart from that they are more cognitively flexible… it is easier to change their opinions… change is less stressful until about the age of 20’.
We all need some guidance from time to time and especially during our teenage years when our emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual systems are all rapidly changing. It’s greatly unsettling and can be even more so if external factors have an especially important influence in our daily lives. If this is the case, the transitional phases can sometimes appear overwhelmingly worrying. Shirley recounts an instance of a 14 year old girl who seemed at the point of no return. Her behaviour was irrational; she was physically violent and had no regard for herself or of those around her. Brought up in an abusive home, she had greatly felt the brunt of her father’s violence which led to a dead mother and an amputated arm. This greatly disturbing background led many of her elders and carers to inform Shirley that she was wasting her time in trying to engage her, never mind change her behaviour. However, as Shirley says, ‘she changed, changed beyond our dreams’, and now 14 years later that same young girl has blossomed into a confident, warm, calm and happy teacher.
However there is still much work to be done. Many policy makers remain to be convinced by yoga despite the evidence of continuous research and case studies. Furthermore we need to be cautious that those hopeful teens who go in search of yogic help do not get exploited by false gurus, but rather are taught by empathic teachers who have the person’s best interests at heart. One of the ways this can be achieved will be to educate youths on the principles of karma yoga, which will in turn develop their inner strength so that they are not emotionally vulnerable nor dependant on anyone else except themselves. Once this has been achieved, the youths of today will be the fresh, vibrant and positive adults of tomorrow.
Josie Sovegjarto will be talking at Instill about her work in arts education since 2007, where she has been using yoga. She teaches dance, theatre and community arts to key stage 4 and post 16 students at The BRIT School in Croydon.
Josie says, “I have created a course that looks at the impact of community arts practice and how we as an institute can continue to focus on making performing arts more accessible to the wider community. My role is to facilitate the students in their journey, learning about the importance of social cohesion through creative and expressive practices. Teaching yoga within the school environment goes hand in hand with this. As the students learn about accepting, nurturing and developing themselves, they start to connect more with others around them. Initially yoga was always something separate from the work I do in school. However, after a significant development in my own self practise and beginning my initial yoga teacher training, I recognised the absolute necessity of making yoga accessible to all and it became an obvious and very conscious choice to join my two worlds together, yoga teaching and teaching in education!”
“I realised that if we can ‘de mystify’ yoga and really work on making it open to anyone and everyone then the impact will be hugely worthwhile to all. To do this, it needs to be engaging, understandable and flexible. We recently had the whole of year 11 taking part in short 20 minute bursts of yoga as a means to assist with exam and revision preparation. Helping out this generation of young people to be more self-accepting and kinder to themselves will bring great change. I have had 18 year old male students who are budding singers and rappers practising next to experienced dance students searching for a little ‘time out’, alongside younger key stage four students thriving for a career in fashion design or digital media who have noticed the benefits to their concentration and patience.
Being able to deliver yoga in my school teaching environment for me, brings it back to the true meaning of yoga, which is quite simply union. Union of body, mind and breath but also that beautiful union of people, despite age, ability, experience or interests. This also relates wonderfully to the community work we do as a school, which is a big part of our ethos and at the heart of the school.
Last year I was lucky enough to visit a school in Pondicherry, South India where students from 5-15 years old pause for a short meditation practice twice a day. Truly inspiring!”
“What makes teaching dance or performing arts to teaching yoga very different is the importance of self acceptance and letting go of the ego. There is no need for an ‘end goal’, no need to look a certain way, to portray a certain character or to be able to hold your leg up at a particular angle. So many people assume yoga is about the aesthetic. What I enjoy is those break through moments, no matter when they happen or how minor they are but the insight into how simple it is to just turn your focus inwards, notice your breath and accept how you are feeling in that moment. When people understand that that is yoga! I can see the benefits of yoga working for people with every session I teach which is encouraging and a little bit magical!
I see the pressure that the school environment has on students as well as staff, especially as we are all essentially driving towards targets, grades, statistics and levels of achievement. I am motivated to make changes to education in terms of how we are approaching the delivery of what we do and how well we are looking after ourselves and others. I am keen to develop a practise that is accessible for students as they approach their exams, their assessments, their moments of noted ‘pressure points’ in the school year. I also wholeheartedly believe this needs to be accessible for staff. If as facilitators we are not looking after ourselves and being more mindful, how can we be instructing the young people we care for to do so? What tools can we develop for young people to store away that they can repeat easily and utilise personally in a time of need? Can this be developed collectively between staff and students, bespoke to each school or subject area?
We all need to do less and do it well! Teachers are burning out; students are burning out. It is important to live a life that is true to you and one that is non-divisive. Working with others, not against others and being able to recognise what is and isn’t good for you.
As teachers how can we guide, nurture and encourage young people to take care of themselves and build resilience when we are not doing that ourselves? Yoga for all who have responsibility of working with others is key to making a change. Being truthfully reflective about our own lives, past and present can really aid the understanding of other people’s circumstances and individual needs.
Pastoral care and accepting that issues surrounding anxiety and mental health are very real right now and appear to be affecting young people more than ever. A personal reflection after recently meeting old students who I have taught in the past is how critical school age is to the rest of your adult life; health, decision making, social development, personal acceptance etc. Is it time that we look at every aspect of the health of our young people and make this a consistent priority?
Josie has 10 years experience of teaching and facilitating in education in both schools and community settings and is now eager to make the health and wellbeing of the young people she works with the absolute priority. She says, “It is largely respected and understood when yoga is often advised for young people at a time of need, perhaps after a physical injury, to calm the mind before exam stress, to resolve disturbed sleep patterns, or to learn more about acceptance when dealing with mental health. What if yoga could be a tool, that if taught early enough would be utilised independently by all, as a preventative for an array of potential issues, health problems and sufferings?”
Like to know more or are you a teacher interested in bringing yoga into your school? Book NOW to reserve your place at the Instill conference on 11th November where Josie will be presenting a workshop on this very topic
Shaura Hall overcame addiction herself and now helps others to heal through yoga therapy. She will be speaking at the Instill conference about how her work could help young people with screen addiction. We asked her about her work:
“Addiction is a very hard recovery and I could tell you many stories that
would break your heart. I experienced a painful 10-year cycle of addiction and lost much as a result of it. But this experience ultimately led me to become a yoga therapy teacher and to dedicate myself to helping others to heal. So, what I want to share with you is my experience in breaking the cycle of addiction. I also want to discuss how we can help young people with screen-age addictions by better understanding how the brain reacts to stress and – more importantly for recovery – how it responds to relaxation.
The brain deals with stressful events in many different ways. One of its coping strategies is to modify certain structures that are active in the dopamine pathway, the neurotransmitter linked to reward-motivated behaviour.
This change gives rise to addiction or repetitive behavioural patterns. Recovery takes dedication and often requires the creation of a very different identity from the one that we had before. Such transformation is possible and, given the right environment, we can change our brain behaviour and overcome obstacles.
Yoga teachers can offer this space to young people and teach them the
regulatory skills to find their way through the world. The brain goes through important changes in adolescence that have the potential to affect a young person’s mental health for life. Too much screen time, I believe, influences the adaptation of the young brain, activating stress-signaling pathways and the dopamine system.
I have already used my training and experience to develop a CPD training for healthcare professionals on what happens when the brain adapts to substances or behavioural patterns due to stress. Now I hope to extend this by setting up a programme to support people with screen-age addictions. This will come under the Araucaria Project, a social enterprise I am setting up. The Araucaria Project will support people in recovery who have been practising yoga to learn how to teach yoga – and give it back to the community. I am hoping that the stories that will come out of this project will lift – rather than break – your heart.