The Edinburgh Yoga Festival took place from 13 to 19 February, 2017 at venues all across the city. The festival took the opportunity to celebrate the fantastic work of the Edinburgh yoga teachers, students and studios in keeping the city moving, breathing and living well.
We wanted to celebrate the passion, generosity and commitment of the many yoga teachers across the Lothians and Edinburgh to bring yoga classes to new parts of the city. And the local media agreed – making yoga accessible was exciting and important and something to shout about! We were featured in the Scotsman on Sunday, on STV news and on BBC Radio Scotland in the build up to the event. Laura Wilson, ECYO
Laura and Lorraine with Jenny Lovatt, the event manager
This Pay-it-forward festival was launched in 2016 to raise funds for two great projects – Edinburgh Community Yoga Outreach and Comas, both working with those recovering from addiction and people living in poverty and isolation with mental health and social problems.
In 2016, after a post yoga conversation between one of our directors and Outreach development co-ordinator Lorraine Close, and Ruth Campbell, the CEO of Comas ( a local partner), we launched our first ever Pay it Forward Yoga Festival. Our intention was to celebrate the relationship between the yoga community and the recovery community that has developed through our growing partnership with Comas and simultaneously raise funds we desperately need. Laura Wilson, ECYO
Fundraising is never far from the minds of Laura Wilson and Lorraine Close, directors of Edinburgh Community Yoga Outreach. They are wholeheartedly committed to taking yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices into under-served communities. Laura and Lorraine work in places like prisons, mental health hospitals and addiction recovery centres and teach people with acute psychiatric needs, learning difficulties, disengaged youth, addiction issues, women affected by trauma, people who self harm and people with long term health conditions. They are always conscious of the need to bring in a regular and substantial amount of money to allow them to continue to give people the opportunity to simply move and breathe, to experience relaxation and to learn more about themselves, to reduce stress, develop self-compassion and resilience and to empower people to make the changes they see fit.
Throughout the week, local teachers and studios generously offered their resources and time for free, so that all money raised at special festival classes went towards supporting the great work of ECYO and Comas. Yogamatters was proud to sponsor the festival as part of its High Five Initiative, by donating essential yoga equipment to be used at the Yoga Festival and by ECYO after in their classes. These yoga mats and props were greatly appreciated at the festival and will be invaluable for the continued work that ECYO are doing.
Our relationship with Yogamatters is one that is important to us, and we are extremely proud to be part of the High Five Initiative, a commitment to growing the partnership between ECYO and Yogamatters. We are delighted to have had Yogamatters’ writer Helen Redfern visit us in Edinburgh and for Yogamatters to support the work we do. Laura Wilson
Yogamatters’ writer Helen Redfern went up to Edinburgh to visit the Festival.
What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than to witness love in action with ECYO. I had the privilege of attending the yoga class run by the Womenzone project for women recovering from trauma. Lorraine from ECYO brought us a class full of love and compassion for ourselves. She’s great at always being able to find peace in the chaos. These women appreciate this moment of calm in their busy lives so much. This class set the context for the reason behind the whole festival. Helen Redfern
And then Helen and Lorraine took part in one of the studio classes put on especially as part of the Festival. They walked across the Meadows on a glorious afternoon to Meadowlark Yoga Studio to attend Frankie Culpin’s Heart Opening Flow class.
Afterwards, Frankie explained that the heart opening flow idea was partly inspired by it being Valentine’s Day and partly because the festival itself was encouraging yogis to open their hearts and give of themselves for a great cause. The class itself was well attended, half being regular studio members and half coming along for the first time as part of the festival. Some had no experience of yoga at all, but Frankie was always offering options, always encouraging the class to listen to their own bodies and rest when they needed to. She had a warm, accepting manner, murmuring gentle words of encouragement and correction as she walked by. She provided props and gave detailed instructions of how to use them for best effect. She prompted everyone to always listen to their breath and to their body. Time and time again, she encouraged the class to open up across the chest and raise their hearts up to the sky. Everyone gave of themselves on the mat, always keeping in mind the transformative power of yoga that they were celebrating in this festival class.
It was great to see people here who wouldn’t normally come to a yoga studio. People who may find a studio setting quite intimidating. But to come as part of something bigger and different, to come for a reason outside of themselves, maybe that made it easier. They came to support the Festival. That’s why it’s such a good thing. Frankie Culpin
Having taught Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga and Power Yoga mainly at Meadowlark for the past two years, Frankie was delighted to have the opportunity to give back and support the work of Lorraine and Laura at ECYO by offering this class. She’d been involved in last year’s festival too and follows the work of ECYO online.
What these girls do sets them apart in the yoga world. They’re bringing yoga to completely non-yogic settings. They meet people where they’re at. And there’s no corporate agenda there. They’re not promoting a brand. Theyre so genuine. Frankie Culpin
Even in the last two years, Frankie has seen yoga really blossoming across the city. There’s such a variety of individuals who practise yoga now Meadowlark welcomes a mixture of students and professionals, male and female, younger and older. This Edinburgh Community Festival raised the profile of yoga even further and offered studios the opportunity to pull together in a non-competitive setting. It gave teachers the opportunity to practise together.
With inclusivity at the forefront, edyogafest offered many different ways to become involved; from a seminar on yoga for addiction, to a kirtan party, a sponsored 108 sun salutations and a wide ranging timetable of events across the city. Alongside some of the more traditional offerings like vinyasa, power, Forrest, core, there was also men’s yoga, fifty plus yoga, kids and family yoga, chair yoga, trauma informed yoga to name just a few. At ECYO, we are extremely proud of the range of classes offered at the festival. Our hope is that as time goes by, people will realise that there is a yoga class out there for them, despite any extra challenges they may have. Laura Wilson, ECYO
Frankie Culpin was all for it. She spread news about the festival across her Facebook and Instagram feeds to encourage others to get along to festival events and classes. As did many other yogis across the city.
The opening party at Serenity Cafe
The festival was a huge success. Hundreds of people joined us on the mat to celebrate yoga in our city. There were many highlights; a Kirtan Scotland chant fest on the Friday night, the post-108 sun salutation exuberance followed by a deep yoga nidra with Penny Horner on Saturday morning and a wonderful flow class with Dawn Findlay on the Sunday evening. Having grown from its first year in 2016 where over £3500 was raised, the festival involved many yoga studios and more than fifty teachers across the city – and this year we raised more than £5000! Laura Wilson, ECYO
Which is fantastic news for yoga in Edinburgh and for all those involved with ECYO and Comas!
We are excited about what the funds raised will enable us to do and are already looking forward to 2018, making plans for new ways to raise awareness around inclusivity and yoga and finding new ways to take these transformative practices to the people who need them most. Laura Wilson, ECYO
Here at Yogamatters, we’re delighted at the success of the Festival and feel so privileged to have played our part in supporting this Festival.
We are so grateful to the Edinburgh yoga community who embraced our cause so completely. Without the teachers giving their time for free, the studios offering their space and support and our sponsors, the festival would simply not be possible. Laura Wilson, ECYO
If you wish to find out more about the work of ECYO or how you can donate, then visit ECY Outreach.