EVOC Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund: Year 1


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Monday 23rd October 2023

In October 2021 Edinburgh was allocated £1.255 million from the Scottish Government’s Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund to support mental health and wellbeing of people (aged 16+) at a small scale, grassroots, community level. The Fund was to help tackle mental health inequalities by supporting those who had been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Edinburgh Community Yoga received funding from EVOC Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund to extend our existing community yoga programme in the Greater Craigmillar area, supported by partnership with Craigmillar Medical Practice and other community groups through social prescribing and community referral.

Greater Craigmillar contains pockets of high deprivation in Edinburgh city, where people are marginalised as a result of poverty and inequity in accessing activities associated with wellbeing. Communities in areas of deprivation have an increased incidence of mental and physical health issues, Adverse Childhood Events and issues of addiction. As a result of COVID-19 anxiety, social isolation and poor mental and physical health have all increased, disproportionately so for those from the most deprived areas and there is increasing pressure on local health services to meet this need.

As part of this we developed and implemented a straightforward, time efficient online referral system that link workers and GPs can utilise for information and referrals and which ECY staff can follow up on.  The funding allowed us to increase our community yoga classes each week, each including time for social interaction, discussion and exploration of other wellbeing activities to support mental health.

Moira McFarlane, ECY teacher runs our Chair Yoga for Health at the Bothy, 92 Niddrie Mains Road, Craigmillar, Edinburgh, EH16 4DT, which was established as part of this project.  The class runs weekly on a Thursday from 11am-12.15pm and includes time at the end for a cuppa and a catch up. The class description is below:

Yoga for Health (chair-based yoga) – Let’s Move, Relax, Chat. This class might be good for you if you have chronic pain, are feeling a bit down or if you just want to get out and move a bit more. Chair yoga offers you the chance to gain all the benefits a regular yoga practice offers without compromising your health by overdoing it in any way. This class includes time for a cup of tea and chat at the end.

This weekly class commenced on 12th January 2023, is Free (or by donation) and is held at the Bothy, Craigmillar’s own recovery centre, which opened at the start of 2023. Moira, ECY teacher says ” The Bothy is set up by the local community for the community. It is a wonderful safe place set up and run by volunteers”. Read more from Moira below:

I have been teaching this chair based class since January 2023. and it runs every Thursday 11-12.15pm. It is a follow on class from the socially prescribed class as the Medical Practice.

The class is open to all and has gradually built in numbers. I encourage attendees from the medical centre to carry on their yoga practice out in the community. This way I feel they are empowered to make their own decisions and carry on their own path to a more healthy lifestyle.

The class is also open to the wider local community. There is a large diverse group that regularly come to class. Age, gender, race, religion, all come together in this space, chatting, sharing, singing! and of course yoga. There are no barriers here. This is why this class is so important to the community, bringing people together, sharing the practice of yoga and all it s benefits. Each week we include, meditation, breathwork, gentle movement and most importantly a cuppa and a lot of chat. This class really is a highlight of peoples week because of the connection it brings.

The Yoga For Health (chair-based yoga) classes run in addition to our already established Yoga for Health (mat-based yoga) classes, which run on Monday’s at the Thistle Foundation.

Some Feedback from our recent classes includes:

  • “The class is lovely. Moira has such a calming effect on everyone. So welcoming and always brings something different to each class.”
  • “I have just recently joined the seated yoga class with Moira. I didn’t know what to expect but have thoroughly enjoyed the sessions. I find myself really looking forward to attending. I feel welcome, happy and safe with such a lovely group of people. Moira. is so knowledgeable, calm and welcoming with lengthy experience. I am so grateful to be part of this journey. Thank you Moira and the group.”
  • “I thoroughly enjoy yoga. I find it very relaxing. I recently joined Moira’s yoga at the Bothy and find it very beneficial, relaxing and it helps with me with anxiety. I would certainly recommend this class.”