We are so grateful to have such an amazing team of experienced and passionate teachers! Here you can read some thoughts from two of them..
Naomi teachers a weekly English and Yoga class for Refugee and asylum seeking women in Edinburgh.
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”
We had a small idea, we could call it an acorn – figuratively speaking. We were relative strangers but shared ECY in common. We met in my lounge, after work, a November night, bleak weather, hopeful talk, we came up with a plan.
A few months later, Lorraine receives a message: we have been awarded Big Lottery funding. Enabling us to run, for a year at least, in Edinburgh, weekly: Free Yoga and English classes for refugee women. Truly amazing news. We can hardly believe it.
Next step, to find a suitable, accessible, warm venue where everyone feels welcome and with a creche, not forgetting within budget. I researched options then wrote to everyone who i thought might be interested, probably fifty emails sent out, received with:a radio silence. Until, at last, one morning a sunny message arrived from Pamela of Saheliya, she says our offering would meld perfectly with their “Open Arms” project.
Onwards and upwards or downwards in this case, two ECY yoga teachers to London for a weekend training with Ourmala founder Emily Brett. “Ourmala’s vision is a world where refugees and asylum-seekers can lead happy, healthy, fulfilling and dignified lives.”
Buoyed with added confidence from the training, ready to begin our course back in Scotland. Emily reached out to us, over our middle eastern picnic lunch, asked us if we would work as the first Northern arm of Ourmala, a collaboration with ECY.
“Of course” we smiled, delighted.
Rewind to 2015 where i taught hours of ESOL for recently arrived Syrian refugees. Mixed groups, exhausted people, adapting to a new country, weekly we recited the English alphabet, i held up picture cards, gently repeating “girl, boy, house, garden…” made sugary coffees, ate sweet treats . We began each class with a deep sigh and a deep stretch. I think it helped.
Our new project is a more nourishing version of what i offered when working in Adult Education for Edinburgh Council.
So here we are, 6 months into the project. We meet once a week, catch up, talk about our children, wry moans about husbands, housework, the daily trials and tribulations of being parents, how we really shouldn’t have a biscuit but smile, wave of the hand towards a towering plate:
” oh go on then, pass me that chocolate one” We spend time going over some practical English phrases and then, oh joy, tis time to close the blinds, dim the lights, roll out the yoga mats.
We practice breathing and stretching and moving our bodies. Yoga has become a shared and comforting moment. A tender time in the week. There are groans and giggles. We finish with some time to rest, eyes closed, warm under a blanket. I make tea which we drink together, sat on the floor, making small talk, softer, more relaxed now after our yoga practice.
John teaches weekly ECY community classes as well as classes for veterans and people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and misuse.
When I was a student at my first university 25 years ago the first essay we had to write was about what exactly does the term Community mean. At that time, (when smoking was still allowed in the common rooms and Culture Beat were at number one with Mr Vain), it seemed everything was being branded with the word community. Community Policing, Community Empowerment and even Community Woodlands being examples of how the term was being used for all manner of activities. But what did the term actually mean? Being the eager band of students, we tore ourselves away from the fug of Golden Virginia roll ups and machine dispensed coffee to find out.
As it turned out the term could indeed be used to describe a range of activities including communities of people living in a geographical area such as my own place of abode in Craigmillar, or communities brought together by a common interest such as the Gay Community, Recovery Community or even the virtual communities today brought together on social media.
The term it seems came from the Latin Comunitas meaning ‘public spirit’ or ‘shared in common’ to go even further back.
So what has this all got to do with yoga? Well around 5 years ago my intro to ‘real’ yoga was through Edinburgh Community Yoga reaching out to the Recovery Community that I’d found myself immersed in down at the Serenity Cafe.
For the first time I experienced a yoga class which included Pranayama, Kriya’s and Yoga Nidra, it was the first class where the Asana’s came with an explanation of the benefits of doing them. There was an accessibility to this form of yoga I had failed to find in mainstream studios or leisure centres!
We had time, were encouraged to ask questions and sometimes meet up for coffee afterwards to connect and feel part of, there was also an explanation of how the various yogic practices could help us in our recovery from addiction. I’d have to say I was smitten with this form of yoga and tried to get to as many classes as possible but this was difficult as I worked away a lot.
Fast-forward 4 years and a couple of thousand of hours of personal practice and learning and I’m now leading those classes for Edinburgh Community Yoga. Some of the feedback from people coming along to my classes on a Monday and Friday night at Beetroot Sauvage are:
” I love this yoga it helps me so much with my mental health, helping me sleep better and not constantly anxious about everything”
“It helps me relax and feel more grounded which is important to me as I’ve rarely felt that in my life”
“We have fun and learn about ourselves at the same time, oh and I love the relaxation”
” I love the sharing of food after the classes, this helps me feel part of something bigger than myself, helps me with perspective”
“It gets me off the sofa and out into company when my head wants me to isolate”
I’m now doing a daily practice at home and it helps me sleep better and repair after work”
So in our classes and afterwards we have the opportunity to share our experiences, support each other and feel part of something greater than ourselves. I love spreading the benefits of yoga and community yoga is my passion.
I heartily believe that health is our true wealth and its great to be a part of something that has the purpose of spreading this around.
Happy to see you at any of my classes if you fancy sharing a slice of public spirited yoga!