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.

Bringing Yoga & Arts Education together

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!”

Demystifying yoga

“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!”

 Self-acceptance and letting go of the ego

“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!

Taking care of ourselves to take care of others

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?

 Yoga for staff and students

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.

What’s important now?

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?

Yoga as a preventative tool

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