Mental Health Awareness Week 2020|18th – 24th May

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. Since 2001, the Mental Health Foundation have campaigned around a specific theme for one week each May raising awareness of topics such as body image, stress and relationships. Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time and so mental health is everyone’s business.

This year, the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Kindness’.

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Why Kindness?

During these challenging and uncertain times, the positive news that we have seen is always one of kindness. The bravery of our NHS staff and key workers. Captain Tom Moore who walked 100 laps of his garden to raise funds for our NHS. Neighbours getting the shopping for their isolated elderly neighbours. People helping people. The everyday acts of kindness that we are seeing all the time. And we saw this right from the start of the crisis. It is what makes others lives better and makes our lives better.

Kindness can transform our schools, work places, communities, and our society as a whole. As Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation says: “Acts of kindness can help improve emotional wellbeing. This is true whether we are giving or receiving it.” Kindness is clearly good for our mental health – both giving kindness (acts of kindness) and receiving kindness from others. Both can make us feel better.

In yoga, the first of limb of the eight limbs of yoga is called Yama – self-restraints. The first of the five Yama is Ahimsa. Ahimsa means ‘non-violence’ or more simply ‘compassion’ or kindness. Such is the importance that it is the first aspect of the eight limb path of yoga that is discussed. This involves kindness to ourselves and kindness to others. During Mental Health Awareness week let’s think about how we can spread this kindness to ourselves and to others.

How can I get involved?

During Mental Health Awareness Week you can carry out or reflect on an act of kindness. This can be anything – big or small  – every act of kindness is important! It may be an act of kindness that you have done or that you have received. And we can learn from one another! You can post about this on social media and may even want to add a photo or video (with permission!) and use the hashtags #KindnessMatters #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. There is no need to stop at one act of kindness either! You can do as many as you would like! However, do remember that we must always be kind to ourselves too – don’t overstretch yourself by giving too much of yourself if you’re not able to, or by going beyond your personal resources. Acts of kindness can of course be to yourself – self-care, recognising what you need in the present moment – be that space, a treat, or just permission to relax.

You can also share on social media your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using the same hashtags #KindnessMatters #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. Let’s start the conversation. We’ve seen how kindness is so important in all our lives, particularly over the past couple of months. How can we take that forward?

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

What are acts of kindness?

The possibilities are endless, and by sharing our ideas online, we can learn from one another. The Mental Health Foundation shares lots of ideas of acts of kindness that you can do during this week and going forward. You probably do many of these already without even realising how much your act of kindness means! Acts of kindness can be to others and also towards ourselves. Often we find it easier to be kinder to others than ourselves but we must remember that both are important

Some examples include:

Acts of kindness to others:

  • Give the gift of yoga with Yogasmiths to a friend for free during Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 – see full details below!
  • Call or have a virtual catch-up with a friend or friends – perhaps a friend that you haven’t spoken to for some time
  • Tell a family member or friend how much you love them and appreciate them.
  • Let someone know how proud you are of them
  • Say ‘thank you’ to someone  – show them you appreciate them and the work they do.
  • Surprise someone you live with to a homemade dinner. Or simply make them a cup of coffee or tea
  • Spend time playing with your pet! They’ll show you how much they appreciate it!
  • Give or send someone a small gift – something homemade or something you’ve grown is always nice
  • Offer support or just check up on your neighbours – many people are self-isolating and may be experiencing loneliness

Acts of kindness to yourself:

  • Relax and unwind by giving yourself time to do something that you enjoy – for example reading a book, listening to your favourite music, a warm candle-lit bath, a walk in nature, yoga, exercise, gardening, baking a cake, learning a new skill, etc. What helps you? Could you give yourself some time everyday just for you – be kind to yourself.
  • Self-care – look after yourself – perhaps this means having a routine, going to be bed earlier, giving yourself time to cook a healthy meal for yourself, exercise, yoga, mindfulness, etc. Taking time to care for your physical, mental and emotional health
  • Connect with others – call a friend or connect online. Join an online class or group.

Find our blogs on self-compassion here: Self Compassion by Kristen Neff – Book review and Mindful Self Compassion course certificates

What are we doing for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020?

  • Free Yoga classes

    A0AE55FB-5FBA-410D-B7FD-090CC0D7424CDuring Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 we are inviting anyone who has attended one of our classes to give the gift of yoga to one of their friends who has never been to one of our classes before! All you need to do is send an email to your friend (remember to copy our email into the email: enquiries@yogasmiths.org) inviting them to attend one of our classes for free! That’s it! Your friend can then contact us and let us know which class they would like to attend. You can copy and paste the template below into your email:

(Title of email – Free Yoga Class! Random Act of Kindness for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020)

Hi

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 and the theme is Kindness. As my act of kindness, I would like to offer you to attend a free yoga class with my yoga teachers Yogasmiths before the end of May. The classes are taught via Zoom online video conferencing software.

Yogasmiths are Paul and Stephen Smith and are based in West Kirby, Wirral. To see the weekly Yogasmiths yoga timetable just visit:

https://yogasmiths.org/shop/

And then email Yogasmiths at enquiries@yogasmiths.org to let them know which class you would like to book on to. They can then send you the details to access your free class!

For more details about Yogasmiths classes just visit http://yogasmiths.org

Thanks and enjoy your free yoga class!

Terms and Conditions – you are only eligible for a free class if you have not attended an indoor Yogasmiths class in the past. One free yoga class per customer. The free class must be used by Sunday 31st May 2020.

  • Virtual Pub Quiz with Yogasmiths

Saturday 23rd May. All profits from this quiz will be donated to the Mental Health Foundation. You can book on to this quiz at: Charity Virtual Pub Quiz. Cost is £5 per person. If you’ve attended one of our quizzes before you know it’ll be lots of fun and it’s the taking part that counts! It’s just nice to all get together and have some fun.

  • Daily acts of kindness 

    We’ll be posting acts of kindness posts daily during Mental Health Awareness week using the hashtags #KindnessMatters and #Mentalhealthawarenessweek. These posts will include acts of kindness we are giving to others, to ourselves and acts of kindness we’ve received. Look out for these and let us know what acts of kindness you have given and received. We’ll also consider how we can all build a kinder society.

What else can I do?

Virtual fundraising:

If you do hold a fundraising event please let The Mental Health Foundation know about it – including any photos/videos. These can be sent to events@mentalhealth.org.uk. Fundraising or separate donations can be made to The Mental Health Foundation at http://mentalhealth.org.uk/donate

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival has a special programme of online activity running all this May. Artists and audiences will be exploring what kindness means to them. For more information visit: http://mhfestival.com

Spread the word – spread kindness

The Mental Health Foundation has lots of posters, graphics, booklets and more available at http://mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw

Stay up-to-date with what’s going on during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond – follow @mentalhealthfoundation on Facebook and Instagram, and @mentalhealth on Twitter.

You can read more about the Mental Health Foundation’s innovative programmes, campaigns and transformative mental health research at: http://mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work

Check out our previous Mental Health Awareness Week blogs;

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 – Body Image

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 – Stress

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Mindful Self Compassion Course

Mindful Self Compassion course certificates

Mindful Self Compassion Course

Earlier this year we completed a Mindful Self Compassion Course in Hoylake Parade Community Centre with Rita Bennet and Pauline Johnson. The course was a fantastic experience. Here we run through some details about the course and discuss its benefits.

Each course runs across 8 weekly sessions and also includes a silent retreat morning. The course teaches you practical methods and techniques to help you foster Self-compassion.

Mindfulness teachers Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer developed and put together the MSC course. You can find links to their websites and work in the Further resources section at the end of this post.

The course was split over 8 morning sessions and also an additional silent retreat session. Each session has its own theme;

  1. Discovering Mindful Self-Compassion
  2. Practicing Mindfulness
  3. Practicing Loving-Kindness
  4. Discovering Your Compassionate Voice
  5. Living Deeply
  6. Meeting Difficult Emotions
  7. Exploring Challenging Relationships
  8. Embracing Your Life
Mindful Self Compassion Course
Steve & Paul with their Certificates of Attendance on the MSC course

The MSC Course provides you with 3 core meditations, 4 other meditations and 20 informal practices. This ensures that you can pick the practices that you like and that work for you. Likewise, it gives you scope to not have to do the practices that you do not find useful or do not like. This practical side of the course provides you with a toolkit of techniques. You can use these whenever you need to, dipping into your tool kit for the right tool!

Mindful Self Compassion and Yoga

The Yama are the first limb of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. Yama means restraint. Patanjali sets out behaviours that we need to restrain and puts this at the start of the Eight Limbs. Ahimsa is the first Yama in the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The sanskrit work ahimsa is often translated as non-violence, non-harm or compassion.

We tend to think of compassion as a giving concept. That we are compassionate towards others. However, compassion goes both ways and we need to consider self-compassion. In a yoga class for example this would be practicing to your own level and ability. Therefore, not being violent towards your own body.

Taking this concept wider, self-compassion is about being in tune with what we need at any given moment. Being kind to ourselves. Talking to ourselves in a kind compassionate voice. This is often the hardest part! We tend to talk to ourselves with the voice of a harsh critic. Talking to ourselves in a tone / manner that we would never dare to use with others. The MSC course helps you to begin to find a kinder voice towards yourself.

The Importance of Self Compassion

At this current time, the tool kit we developed as part of the Mindful Self Compassion course has been particularly helpful. It is quite a natural response during this lockdown period to have fluctuating moods and emotions. Consequently we can begin to feel stressed or anxious. Stopping and asking yourself what you need right now, is a powerful technique. Always remembering that you are looking at things that are within your sphere of influence. Do you need to sit and watch the breath? Or perhaps you need to offer your self a compassionate touch? Maybe you need to go for a mindful walk? There will be something within the Mindful Self Compassion tool kit to help.

Rita & Pauline

A quick word about Rita Bennet and Pauline Johnson. They are great teachers and facilitators. Rita is a fully trained teacher of Mindful Self-Compassion and also teachers MBSR courses. Pauline is a Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness Teacher. Consequently as a teaching team they have lots to give their students from different perspectives.

Mindful Self Compassion Course
L-R Paul, Rita Bennet, Steve and Pauline Johnson

Paul previously attended a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course with both Rita and Pauline. Because Paul loved the MBSR course we both jumped at the chance to attend the MSC course in Hoylake.

As a result of reading this blog, if you are interested in the Mindful Self Compassion course, you can email Rita to register you interest. You can contact her at: ritaalicebennett@gmail.com

Further Resources

You can find our review of Kristen Neff’s book here: https://yogasmiths.org/2020/02/17/self-compassion-by-kristen-neff-book-review/

Purchase Kristen Neff’s book here: 

Find out more about Kristen Neff on her website; https://self-compassion.org/

Find out more about Christopher Germer on his website; https://chrisgermer.com/

Check out our Lockdown Resources blog here: Lockdown Resources

Here is a previous blog relating to tips for dealing with stress; https://yogasmiths.org/2018/05/19/mental-health-awareness-week-helpful-tips-to-deal-with-stress/

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Free Online Lockdown Resources

Lockdown Resources

We want to share with your some interesting free online resources that have caught our eye over the last few weeks. The following links are great lockdown resources to help both with mental health through Mindfulness but also some reading resources and free TV!

Wellbeing Lockdown Resources

Many of you will know that we have taken our Yoga Classes online during the lockdown. You can join us via the Zoom app and undertake a yoga class in the comfort of your own home. Our classes are suitable for all abilities from absolute beginners to seasoned yogis! We teach a staged approach to Yoga postures. As a result beginners are set up in poses first and then options given to take things further if you want to. You can purchase a place at one of our weekly yoga classes at http://www.yogasmiths.org/shop and also check out our weekly offering of classes there.

Yogasmiths on YouTube

We have created a YouTube channel where we have uploaded a guided Mindfulness of Breath practice and also a Yoga Nidra / Body Scan longer relaxation. These can help you to find a bit of calmness when you need it. If you go to YouTube and click on subscribe you will be notified of when we upload more content to YouTube. Check out the links below, you can listen to these directly from our website here;

Yogasmiths Observations of Breath Mindfulness Meditation 10 mins
Yogasmiths Yoga Nidra / Body Scan 20 mins guided relaxation

Future Learns – Mindfulness course

Future Learn is a great website that has many classes that you can attend for free. We would particular recommend the Mindfulness For Wellbeing and Peak Performance. During this challenging time we can get lost in being unmindful. Lost in our field of thoughts with rumination and worrying about the future. Mindfulness can help bring us back to the present moment and provide some clarity and calmness. The free course on Future Learn provides you with a great introduction to Mindfulness and a range of techniques. As a result you build a personal tool kit of practices that you can dip in and out of as you may need them.

Free Online Magazines

Om Yoga Magazine has been made available for free;

Vegan Life Magazine has also been made free;

Plant Based Magazine from the same publisher is also free;

Books / Reading Lockdown Resources

We have always been big fans of reading. If you are looking for inspiration for new books to read you can check out the book reviews we have written on our blog here: https://yogasmiths.org/category/book-review/

If you prefer audio books, Audible have made part of their catalogue available for free on their website. A lot of the books are for children so would is a great Lockdown Resource for parents. It also has some literary classics available too. You don’t need to sign up for an account either, you can just access and stream from their website.

Free TV shows online

HBO have made over 500 hours of content available for free;

Free Courses online

Coursera have a free online course on What is Contemporary Art? offered by MoMA, click on the link below;

Coursera also have a free course called The Science of Wellbeing offered by Yale which looks interesting, clijc on the link below;

We hope you found our Lockdown Resources useful. Please use the comments below to share any free resources that you have come across. Thanks Paul & Steve

British Wheel of Yoga Diploma course certificates

Our British Wheel of Yoga Diploma Course Certificates arrived earlier this year. We finished the training last year but the certificates take a little while to be issued. But they are certainly worth waiting for!

British Wheel of Yoga Diploma certificates
Paul & Steve modelling their Diploma certificates!

The British Wheel of Yoga Diploma in teaching yoga is a Level 4 diploma. Learning hours on the course are a minimum of 500 hours. It comprises eight units as follows;

  1. Applied Anatomy and Physiology and the Teaching of Asana
  2. Yoga Breathing Practices and Relaxation
  3. Planning for Teaching and the Responsibilities of a Yoga Teacher
  4. Planning and Delivering a Yoga Course
  5. Teaching Asana: Observation, Adjustment and Protection of Vulnerable Areas of the Body
  6. Hatha Yoga and Pranayama
  7. The Teaching and Philosophy of Meditation
  8. Progression in Yoga

As a result of the above units you get a fantastic grounding in all things yoga. The British Wheel of Yoga qualifications actually prepare you to teach yoga.

OFQUAL regulated

OFQUAL regulated qualification

In the corner of our British Wheel of Yoga Diploma certificates is the OFQUAL logo. OFQUAL is the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation and regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England. (Here is their website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofqual ) This means that the British Wheel of Yoga course must meet certain regulatory framework requirements. It also means that every course has a verifier who check the standard of the training and the written work.

The world of Yoga teacher training is unregulated and as such the quality of trainings vary massively. This varies from short courses below 200 hours and even some correspondence courses. The industry standard is 200 hours which is often crammed into a month long period via a trip to an exotic location. As a former learning and development professional I know that cramming intense learning into such a short period of time is not good practice. Can you really learn a profession in one month? With the British Wheel of Yoga you are getting an OFQUAL regulated 500 hour training course. This really is a reassuring mark of quality.

When searching out Yoga Teacher training courses, you are preparing to make a significant financial investment in your training. As a result make sure you do some due diligence to avoid being disappointed. The British Wheel of Yoga offer an unrivalled quality of teacher training as one would expect of the Governing Body for Yoga in the UK. You can check out their website here: https://www.bwy.org.uk/

We wrote a previous blog about our journey on the British Wheel of Yoga Diploma which you can find here: https://yogasmiths.org/2019/09/23/the-british-wheel-of-yoga-diploma-journey/

British Wheel of Yoga Diploma certificates
Paul and Steve with their British Wheel of Yoga Diploma certificates

International Women’s Day 2020 – Eileen Ash 108 year old yogi!

International Women’s Day 2020 (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific.

You can find out more about International Women’s Day at the day’s website here: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

Meet 108 year old Eileen Ash!

On this day I wanted to share with you details of a very inspirational lady. I recently became aware of Eileen Ash aged 108. She attends a regular weekly yoga class near her home in Norwich.

International Women's Day 2020 Eileen Ash Norwich Yoga
Eileen Ash at her weekly Yoga class, picture from the Eastern Daily Press website, taken by Simon Finlay

I have read features about her at age 104 and 105 detailing her driving her little yellow mini to yoga each week. ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-37775585 )

She has had a very interesting life, having been a former English Test cricketer between the years of 1937 and 1949. In fact she is believed to be the oldest living international cricketer.

Eileen also worked in the civil service. She worked for MI6 during the war hunting spies. Eileen continued to wrk for them for 11 years.

A short video celebrating Eileen’s 105th birthday from the Norfolk Now youtube channel

Here is a feature from when she turned 107. She says here that “liking people” and “breathing” are the keys to a long life! https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-norfolk-46103434/eileen-ash-the-secret-to-living-to-107-is-liking-people

As I write this, Eileen is 108 years old and continues to attend her weekly yoga class. She attributes her longevity to 2 glasses of red wine a day, yoga and living in Norwich! On International Women’s Day 2020 cheers Eileen!

Read our blog on 101 year old Yoga Teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch here: https://yogasmiths.org/2020/02/28/worlds-oldest-yoga-teacher-passes-away-at-101/

We teach 2 regular weekly chair based Gentle Years Yoga© Classes at Hoylake Parade Community Centre on a Friday morning. Check out our classes page for more information: https://yogasmiths.org/classes/