Penny’s Post: A word from one of our Outreach Teachers

Posted on: January 27th, 2017 by ECY

Penny-In the midst of the yoga festival excitement, we thought we’d  hear from one of our wonderful ECYOutreach teachers, Penny Horner. You’ll also find Penny teaching yoga nidra, gentle yoga and well women yoga at  Meadowlark yoga and other studios across the city.  She is a truly gentle spirit, who’s teaching skills lie in her intuitive understanding of the students she works with and her ability to take yoga to the most diverse of settings. Here she writes of her experience teaching yoga at the Alcohol Related Brain Damage (ARBD) live in centre run by Penumbra Milestone, where she has been working for almost a year. Thank you Penny.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first took on a fortnightly yoga class at a residential unit for ARBD in Edinburgh. And I still don’t, nearly a year later. Every class is different depending on the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the residents at the time. It can be fun, it can be lively, it can be quiet, it can be a bit chaotic but it’s always both challenging and rewarding.

The unit is run by Penumbra, a mental health charity which supports and rehabilitates adults with ARBD. Yoga is one of a number of activities offered to residents to help them on their journey.

ARBD is caused by heavy alcohol consumption over a period of time. It presents differently across individuals. There might be both cognitive impairment and physical disability, in varying levels of severity, caused by the brain damage and compounded by falls, poor nutrition and so on as a result of heavy drinking. Withdrawal from alcohol dependency itself brings its own issues. Anxiety, inability to sleep, depression and lethargy are common experiences.

But the good news is that recovery is possible and much of the brain damage can be reversed.  And yoga can be a helpful tool on the road to recovery alongside the physical, psychological and social care provided by the unit.

The yoga class lasts for around 90 minutes. We use a small communal area away from the main lounge. It’s even more important than in a general class to limit the number of distractions and interruptions for participants. I follow the MARK (Minded Addiction Recovery Kit) approach taught by Shaura Hall at the Minded Institute and guide participants through a 30 minute yoga nidra (deep relaxation) and meditation before introducing movement.

Conducting a nidra at the beginning of a yoga class was, initially ,counter intuitive to me. But it really works to bring participants into their breath and body awareness before turning to physical movement. It has reinforced to me how ‘adaptogenic’ nidra is, how it can be formulated to bring benefits in very different circumstances. Here it provides a way for participants to come home to themselves, to a sense of calm and safety.

The movement itself is inevitably gentle and varies from week to week depending on physical  abilities and restrictions. It includes a Kundalini based kriya. Again, this was something I was sceptical about in training. However, I have found it to be a popular and effective part of the session. The short, fast movements challenge participants but it’s energising, uplifting and fun. The Minded Institute’s research suggests that this sort of coordinated movement with the breath has the potential to initiate neurogenesis, cell growth in the brain and by using grounding practices between movements  the participants can explore this safely.

We finish with more relaxation and guided meditation.

It is incredibly rewarding to hear from participants how the session allows them to feel more relaxed than they have felt for a long time and to pass on tools from nidra and meditation for people to use themselves when they find themselves becoming anxious or distressed in a way that is safe and accessible for them.

There have inevitably been challenges along the way: reluctance to take part, interruptions, comings and goings and very occasionally, open hostility to all things yoga. But ECYO are always there in the background providing wonderful support and wisdom.

It is a privilege to work with the lovely people at Penumbra and to observe the progress people make over the course of their stay with the care they receive. I personally have learned a huge amount and I continue to be amazed and in awe of the positive effects that yoga can have in so many diverse circumstances.


Edinburgh Pay-it-Forward Yoga Festival

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 by ECY

Monday 13th – Sunday 19th February

At yoga studios across Edinburgh & Serenity Cafe.

Tickets are now on sale for the second Edinburgh Pay-it-Forward Yoga Festival in aid of Edinburgh Community Yoga Outreach and Comas.

Line up includes Kirtan & Opening Party • 108 Sun Salutations • Jivamukti • Yoga Brunch • Sound Journey • Yin Yoga • Kids Yoga • Pregnancy Yoga • Chair Based Yoga • Women’s Yoga • Men’s Yoga • Restorative Yoga • Yoga Therapeutics • Vinyasa Flow • Yin Yang • Soul Flow • Rocket Power Yoga and so much more…See WEBSITE for full details.





























Vinyasa Yoga And Yoga Nidra Fundraising Event

Posted on: August 23rd, 2016 by ECY

Saturday the 17th of September
LuLuLemon, Edinburgh



In the last couple of months I have begun to re-establish a regular asana practice after more than a year away from my mat.  A challenging pregnancy living with the constant vomiting and nausea of Hyperemesis Gravidarum alongside pelvic girdle pain meant for the whole of the pre-natal period I was barely out of my bed never mind able to manage the challenge of yoga poses.

Of course we all know that yoga isn’t just about the physical practice so being too ill to move much didn’t worry me at first, I was confident I could rely on the more gentle practices yoga offers.  In fact very often I couldn’t manage pranayama, meditation or yoga nidra either and I quickly realized I was going to have to surrender to the whatever the pregnancy brought me and not fight the process. So I did what I could, when I could, as best I could. I stayed in the moment and I comforted myself with the knowledge that this too would change, and in doing so I kept my yoga practice alive.

After Gracie was born I was swept up in a wonderful whirlwind that left me very little energy to roll out my mat. I was juggling working, studying, moving house and learning to be a mum and somehow six months had flown by before I finally found the time and the energy to begin to re-build my home practice. I was nervous to find out just where my body was (or wasn’t) at and of course had a nagging guilt around the fact that I hadn’t practiced for so long.  I needn’t had worried, eventually my body began to crave the flow I had always loved and I knew I was ready to return. I started slowly to begin with, just going over the basics.  I’d lost nearly all of my strength and flexibility and was forced to go right back to the beginning in many ways, but it’s been a wonderful lesson in non-judging and self acceptance and I’ve found a new passion for finding the simplicity and clarity of movement you can get in working slowly. Many a time I’ll practice just a few sun salutations before enjoying a lovely long savasana. Slow and deliberate, my lack of power is forcing me to come back to the essence of what asana is for me, teaching me to really tune into my movement and I’m loving every minute of it! To be reminded of the joy of something that has been dear to me for so long is such a pleasure and I’m so grateful to be able to enjoy my body in that way again.

And so onto the next challenge, going back to teaching. To celebrate my return to the joyful world of asana I’m organizing a fundraiser for our not for profit social enterprise Edinburgh Community Yoga Outreach and I would love you to join me. The theme of course, is acceptance. We’ll enjoy some stillness, some breath, vinyasa flow and will finish with some lovely yoga nidra before sharing tea and a catch up.

I hope to see you there – whatever state your practice is in, everyone is welcome. Laura x