High Five Initiative Autumn Update 2018

High Five Initiative Autumn Update 2018

Welcome to the Autumn Update of the High Five Initiative, where we check in with our five selected projects to let you know what they’ve been up to in the last few months. This time, we thought it would be great to hear directly from some of those directly involved in the projects, either as organisers, yoga teachers and most importantly, as participants who benefit from what these organisations have to offer. Each of these quotes come directly from those connected with and affected by these five great initiatives. So enjoy finding out more about the projects in the High Five Initiative in this Autumn Update – and don’t forget, you can always show your support in a practical way by making a donation at the Yogamatters checkout to the project of your choice.



CHAIR OF TRUSTEES: ‘Brighton Yoga Foundation aims to go beyond the existing yoga community to reach those who need and would appreciate its benefits the most. We are now involved in 7 yoga community outreach projects –in schools, for mental health, for teenagers, for women recovering from abuse, LGBT youngsters, and bringing elderly and young children together in a yoga class.’

YOGA TEACHER: ‘Working with people who have never done yoga before brings the inherent benefits of this practice to the fore very clearly. Participants are amazed at the positive changes they feel after just 1 hour and often in spite of reservations about having come in the first place. It’s truly rewarding watching them being eager to practiSe and learn more, and over time relax into it and own the changes they can make happen for themselves.’

PROJECT ORGANISER: ‘Young people have so many stresses in their lives and don’t always know how to manage them. The Yoga for Teenagers project in Moulsecoomb, sponsored by the Brighton Yoga Foundation, is in its second term now and has been able to bring yoga to young people who wouldn’t usually think of it as something they could get involved in. They regularly feedback that the class helps them to deal with their stress, manage feelings of anger and anxiety and find ways to relax. They develop their confidence in what their bodies and minds can do.”

PROJECT PARTICIPANT: ‘My whole body feels so much better. I want to do this every day now.’

SUPPORTER: ‘I am so proud to be connected with Brighton yoga festival, all they do to support the community and those in need is the true essence of yoga. Supporting Brighton yoga festival is one of my highlights of the year – the community is so passionate!’



ECY DIRECTOR: ‘Running a not for profit yoga organisation is not without its challenges, but working for Edinburgh Community Yoga brings me deep joy. Seeing how yoga helps people to begin to connect with themselves is a privilege and an honour and being able to serve in this way feels like I am exactly in the right place.’

STUDENT FROM AN ECY OUTREACH PROGRAMME: ‘Yoga and the people involved in this amazing organisation have accepted me as me and have helped me look at life from a different perspective. I am now doing yoga at least twice a week at classes and I also do it at home. It has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my mental/physical health and well-being.’

MEMBER OF STAFF FROM A PARTNER ORGANISATION: ‘Edinburgh Community Yoga is a project who has supported Womanzone and the the Serenity Cafe since 2015 and what a difference it has made! Women are embracing yoga and it is wonderful to watch them progress.’

ECY SUPPORTER: ‘I’m pleased to be able to help support Edinburgh Community Yoga to bring the therapeutic benefits of yoga into the lives of those hard to reach communities. These are the communities I work with everyday in my professional life, so I see first hand the how important projects like this are to peoples health & wellbeing.’



A PRISONER AT HMP LEWES: ‘The Prison Phoenix Trust’s empathy and understanding have gone a long way in helping me delve deep inside myself, making it easier to deal with my demons. They allowed me to see that the fire that was inside me burnt brighter than the fire that blazed around me. Yoga and meditation can bring me one with myself. While I was on bail, I was alienated by people that were meant to be my friends. I came into this place thinking that I was dumped by society, written off so to speak. The PPT showed me that regardless of what I done in my lowest moment, that I still had a place in society. They played a big part in saving my life.’

VOLUNTEER: ‘It is remarkable how the staff and the volunteers all work together as a team, openly and inclusively. The Trust’s work emerges from the daily meditation practised by each one of us, staff and volunteers alike, and living out the expression ‘we are all one heart.’ We thus aim to share the benefits of meditation with whoever wishes to know – prisoner, prison governor, trustee of the Trust or volunteer – and through meditation and yoga lead a fuller life.’

OFFICER AT HMP ERLESTOKE: ‘We have one session of yoga a week. We have been getting big numbers attending and last week I had to turn lads away (our maximum is 30). I have been in this job now for 30 years and never seen a more productive class at relaxing prisoners. We have some very difficult and challenging offenders here, and we have noticed a dramatic improvement in their attitudes, conduct and behaviour after each session. Because it is assisting with a settled atmosphere and violence reduction, we would like to expand the sessions to twice a week and once a month at weekend.’

YOGA TEACHER: ‘I thank you from my students in the prison and myself for all the support you give us. It certainly makes teaching in prison feel like I’m being ‘held’. The classes at Lowdham Grange are going okay and I’m hoping to have a new intake in January. One student has now moved to a Cat C prison and is hoping to continue classes there. Over the year or so with me, he developed a daily practice including meditation. I wish him much love and light for his future and hope this is a life long practice. As you know, it is always inspirational, challenging and joyful to teach in prison. I don’t know why it is so special (even more so than regular classes).’

DIRECTOR OF PPT: ‘Meditation and yoga fit perfectly with prisons. Staff and prisoners alike experience immense pressure and emotional overwhelm. Accessible to people of all faiths or none, and regardless of levels of fitness or previous experience, yoga and meditation help prisoners and officers feel a sense of meaning and grounding in their lives. While not a panacea for everyone behind bars, many thousands in prison have found resilience, hope and a restored faith in being human through these healing practices.’



YOUNG WOMAN WITH DEPRESSION: ‘Yoga I believe truly saved me – hot yoga. It was the one thing throughout my illness that kept me focused. Having a set routine in a 90 minute class gave me something I could repeatedly work with, and get better at. In my everyday life at the time I had zero motivation to make progress. Yoga was the only place I could look at myself in a mirror and not have an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. It gave me the beauty of feeling myself again, and not the girl with depression.

To this day I find yoga keeps me grounded. It allows me to have head space in a controlled environment, so that my mind doesn’t wander into bad thoughts. This worked for me, but there is no right or wrong answer to how to get through this, everyone finds their own cure at different points.’



YOGI ASHOKANANDA: ‘Girls‘ education is often low on the list of priorities in India. Changing the mindset needs to start at school. At Sita Devi we ensure a fair education for the girls in the village because every child deserves to learn. Help us to keep developing social consciousness.’


Photo Credit for featured image: OctoAbi