As we embark today on our second whole school approach to wellbeing through yoga at King Edwards School in Bath, I am continuously grateful and surprised by the insight and adventurous spirit of schools in the BANES area. A few years ago, Kingswood school embraced the whole school approach to yoga, starting with classes for certain age groups, expanding the provision, to include all students and the parents. In parallel the schools employed the Foundation to train 12 of their in-house teachers to deliver yoga to their tutees and students. All the while, we continue to teach the teachers and further their education in yoga. This approach has proved successful, as it is a non-invasive and gentle opening to yoga for everyone involved over a period of time, encouraging a culture of self care. It has increased the morale of teachers, who feel cared for and supported, it has improved the atmosphere in the staff room, with calmer staff and most importantly, the students have benefitted both directly through learning stress-busting techniques and indirectly through being taught by focussed and relaxed teachers, who are modelling optimal pro-social behaviour and mood due to their own practice. Previous to this, the insightful and fully trained Iyengar teacher and Head of Ralph Allen had been teaching yoga to all her staff at Ralph Allen – a tradition which the Foundation continued and expanded to 40 students per week as well and is now in its 10th year.

Other schools who also benefit from yoga especially designed for them are Hayesfield in Bath, St Greg’s Catholic School and Prior Park College. All have TeenYoga graduates sharing yoga. Norton Hill School and Writhlington in Midsomer Norton have both been offering yoga to their students now since 2003 to a smaller degree, but nonetheless it has been impactful. For many years Norton Radstock College (now Bath College) also offered yoga as part of their enrichment curriculum.

With the government endorsing a new move towards a focus on mental wellbeing among both teachers and students, heads and staff are finding yoga is ticking all the boxes. This is what John Chantry says at Ralph Allen:

“Young people experience a great deal of pressure, and consequently stress, to perform well in school due to the high  expectations on them both academically and socially. Yoga is a great way to deal with this & the teen yoga programme has been extremely well received by students at Ralph Allen. The approach taken is just right and has inspired our students not just to try yoga, but to stick with it. I recommend the programme wholeheartedly.” John Chantry, Vice Principal, Ralph Allen School

Simon Morris, Head of Kingswood says this

“We have been considering whole school wellbeing at Kingswood for some time and considering various ways in which we might support the whole school community in taking care of their physical and mental health”.

Various initiatives have arisen from this whole school approach, with yoga classes being one particular example which has really engaged both staff and students.  We have had incredibly positive feedback from staff who say that practising yoga releases the tension in body and mind and teaches them techniques which they can use in day to day situations to help them manage better at particularly busy times in the school term.  A number of staff have now trained as yoga teachers and this, in turn, is allowing us to roll out a programme to support the students.

Bath has long been known to be host to an impressive and constantly high quality group of forward looking schools, scoring high on the league tables and drawing students from all around the world, so their openness and awareness of the salutogenetic properties of yoga may be heralding an optimistic rise in yoga in schools across the nation as an affordable and smart therapeutic and preventative intervention for both staff and pupils.

Charlotta, at King Edwards School, on a foggy April morning!