Comic Relief #ShiftThePower – The Beacon Club

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Comic Relief #ShiftThePower – The Beacon Club

November 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 facilitated multiple blocks of classes over an eighteen month period for the Beacon Club. The Beacon Club is a day support service for people with dementia/memory loss in South West Edinburgh, providing a range of activities aimed at reducing social isolation and loneliness and preserving independent living skills. Clients are collected and returned to their homes by bus with a trained escort.

The day care service runs 4 days per week. On Mondays and Thursdays members are collected from the Broomhouse area. On Tuesday and Wednesday members are collected from the Juniper  Green, Currie and Balerno area. The club has also started a new elderly (non-dementia) group on Friday’s.

Edinburgh Community Yoga ran classes for each of the days/groups in blocks, working with Nancy Bryson, the Adult Community Services Manager at the Beacon Club and some of the clubs other staff and volunteers.

The chair yoga classes were held at Space & Broomhouse Hub facilitated by ECY Teachers: Caroline Phipps,  Thara Wicramsinghe, Naomi Schogler and Angie Lake. Caroline Phipps tells us about her experience below:

Edinburgh Community Yoga (ECY) received funding to facilitate Chair Yoga for The Beacon Club which offers day care to older people with dementia at The Broomhouse Centre. I was one of the lucky teachers invited to guide sessions, which were an hour of chat, laughter, joy, jokes and cheekiness.

The beautiful thing about yoga is how it can be adapted to ensure it is accessible to all. Taking a quiet moment to consciously breathe or an act of kindness is yoga (ahimsa). ECY have ensured all their teaching team have the ability to adapt classes to suit the needs of the participants and carefully match the teacher to the needs of the community group.

I always like to have a plan for a class, usually an A4 sheet with stick-person drawings, it’s rarely used but I like to have something to guide me if needed. And so I created a chair for the first session with this Tuesday morning group. The first session went well, breathwork, self-massage, some gentle seated movement and tapping for relaxation. However, I left knowing something was missing….

The second week I took my singing bowls and Tibetan cymbals. We began the class by listening to the sounds as I made them to support focus and concentration, There were smiles, comments and discussion, and immediately more engagement, Dementia UK states‘ For some people with dementia, music therapy has been shown improve their thinking, feeling, perception, mood and behaviour.’

The third week I placed the singing bowls on the lap of each participant in turn so they could feel the vibration and the light in everyone’s eyes told me we had found the perfect start to our weekly class. The Tibetan cymbals created lots of laughter as they took great coordination to ensure they actually hit each other. Without missing a beat, Ted would add each week ‘someone is at the door’ to a response of laughter.

I also incorporated tennis balls into our classes, encouraging everyone to gently roll them up and down their quadriceps and apply a little pressure. A simple but effective self-massage technique without having to come to standing.

We made funny faces to stretch our jaw and facial muscles, gave ourselves hugs to stretch our arms and thoracic spine and did make it to standing a handful of times with the support of the chair.

Mostly though, the sense of connection by moving together and listening to the singing bowls as each person took their turn to create their own unique sound, brought a true sense of joy. Some of the group dozed as we came into relaxation, a beautiful way to guide the mind and body into the rest and digest side of the nervous system before they had lunch.

Whilst I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to share yoga with George, Maureen, Ted, Jean, Louisa, Irene, Pat, Mary and Audrey, they will never know how much joy they gave me each Tuesday morning. And how much they taught me!