Comic Relief #ShiftThePower – ScoreScotland
Wednesday 5th October 2023
The #ShiftThePower Coronavirus Response Fund was open to community groups and charities working in Scotland. The purpose of the fund is to support grassroots organisations that are providing help and assistance to vulnerable individuals, families, and communities, including coping with the impacts of Coronavirus. Edinburgh Community Yoga were awarded funds to support an eighteen month project including: project work and supporting social prescribing projects in Craigmillar, weekly mat-based yoga classes for SCOREscotland’s women’s group, weekly chair-based classes for the Beacon Club Dementia and Older Adults groups and facilitation of our ‘Thriving Not Surviving – Recognising the Effects of Stress’ workshops in outreach settings.
As part of our funding from Comic Relief #shiftthepower Edinburgh Community Yoga ran a year of classes with the Score Scotland Women’s group. Score Scotland work with partners to address the causes of racism and provide support to families and young people who struggle with its effects. Their goal is to strengthen communities and to enable people to take an active and full part in community life.
The women’s group offers an opportunity for local women to meet up, have a chat and take part in a variety of activities. Each week they discuss a different topic with the aim to share learning experiences. The group’s main focus is on improved mental health and wellbeing. The yoga classes were held from in 2022-2023 every Monday in term time at the Whale Arts in Wester Hailes and ran in addition to their weekly Wednesday group. ECY Teacher, Thara Wicramsinghe tells us about her experience below:
The majority of the group were ethnic minority women of colour from the Muslim community. Their first language was either Arabic or Bengali. Most of them speak very little or no English.
My responsibility was to share a gentle yoga and relaxation practice.
First, I thought the language barrier would be my biggest challenge but I was wrong. They were very friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic to learn, and made me feel part of the group as soon as I met them. They worked together within themselves to interpret and understand my instructions. They were comfortable asking questions, making requests, asking for help, and helping each other. We often talked and laughed about our days, families, work and chores. Some were mothers, and some were grandmothers. We had a lot in common. With warm smiles, greetings and chatter, it was a perfect little community of women rather than a formal class. It was probably the most interactive yoga class I taught.
My main responsibility as the yoga teacher was to create a safe space for the women to practise yoga. Their initial worry was the outfit. Most of them wear the Hijab and weren’t sure how they could ease into their practice. Collectively, we created an enclosed space where people can change or alter outfits if they wish and practice yoga without the worry of being seen from outside. With a lot of reassurance, they eventually realised that yoga can be practised in any comfortable outfit, even in a Hijab.
As I eased into this nurturing community of women, the yoga classes organically evolved around us. We commenced with echoes of greetings “As-Salaam-Alaikum” and responses “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam”. It means Peace be upon you!. We practised mindfulness, yoga postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation. As the weeks went by, they learned to adapt practices to suit their needs and ailments, play with various props and most importantly, Relax. As the women return week after week, they start to see the benefits of yoga in their lives. They would request more playtime with the belts as they ease their neck and shoulder pain. They would go to their favourite relaxation position for Savasana and at the same time make sure nobody falls asleep.
As the Ramadan season approached, they requested yoga practices to support them during this religious time. They taught me the nature of their rituals and the extent of their fasting so I can plan nourishing practices to complement Ramadan. They especially enjoyed the Abhyanga sessions we did with Sesame oil and calming essential oils massaging hands and feet, the longer relaxations, gentle stretching and three part breathing. Through the weekly yoga sessions, they became more comfortable and connected with their bodies and adopted ways to tend to themselves with love and care.
Feedback from regular participants included:
- “We definitely need to continue yoga, it’s good for my body”
- “The stretching helps reveal my backache, I need to continue yoga”
- “I like what we did with the belts, it helps my stiff shoulder”
- “I enjoy and look forward to the relaxation time at the end”
- “Yoga is helpful to relax as I work hard looking after the baby”
- “Yoga is good for me to be relaxed.”
- “ I want to continue doing mindfulness activities and the Yoga is very good for me.”
- “During Yoga my muscles stretch and that feels good”
- “I would like to join more Yoga in the future.”
- “I can see myself improving my breathing and relaxing my mind.”
- “I particularly like meditation as a simple way to keep healthy our brain and nerves which also supports my focus and concentration.”