Today is the sixth International Day of Yoga, 21 June 2020!
The idea of international Day of Yoga was first proposed by the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi during his speech at the UNGA, on 27 September 2014.
He beautifully described Yoga in his speech as follows;
Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day. NARENDRA MODI UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
So wherever you are, you can do some Yoga today! Honouring our practice of Yoga and all of the teachers that brought it to us and continue to.
Remember that your Yoga practice is personal to you and can be anything from the compassion you show to someone, to taking a few deep Yogic breaths during your day to completing the full Ashtanga Primary Series.
Theme of International Day of Yoga 2020
The theme for International Day of Yoga 2020 is Yoga for Health – Yoga at Home
While the social distancing measures adopted by countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic have shut down yoga studios and other communal spaces, yoga practitioners have turned to home practice and online yoga resources. Yoga is a powerful tool to deal with the stress of uncertaintly and isolation, as well as to maintain physical well-being.
We celebrated International Day of Yoga 2020 this morning at our Sunday Yin Yoga class. As a result of the current climate, we practice Yoga at home. You can continue with your practice and feel connected to others by practicing at home.
Yoga for Health is a wonderful theme for this year. We created a page on our website to highlight the great health benefits that yoga has. This page highlights the great work carried out by Dr Timothy McCall. He has collated a large number of health studies around the benefits of yoga. Currently there are 117 conditions listed that Yoga has been proven to benefit. Check out the page here, where you can read about it or download a copy: https://yogasmiths.org/health-conditions-helped-by-yoga/
Let us all spend a moment for ourselves today, on International Day of Yoga. Connect with our breath. Anchor ourselves in the moment through our breath. As a result you can allow yourself to witness and experience the union (Yoke) of breath, body and mind.
The qualification involved being assessed on age related anatomy and physiology. We were also assessed by a British Wheel of Yoga Diploma Course Tutor teaching the classes. In addition to the course work involved we have also prepared two case studies each to contribute to the growing body of anecdotal evidence to the effectiveness of chair based yoga. Thank you to the class members who very kindly assisted us with the case studies.
The class includes full body mobilisations, strengthening activities, gentle pulse raising activities and modified yoga poses. We explore elements of yoga philosophy, breathing exercises and guided relaxations. In addition to all of that we have a social element to the classes. After each session we head down stairs to Popsy’s cafe and have a chat over tea and coffee. Consequently we get to know each other and it is a great opportunity to make some new friends.
Time to Change exists to end the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems. As a result you can find resources to hold your own Time To Talk event at the link above.
The Time to Change website states that their aims are specifically:
ImprovingÂ public attitudes andÂ behaviourÂ towards people with mental health problems.
ReducingÂ the amount of discrimination that people with mental health problems report in their personal relationships, their social lives and at work.
MakingÂ sure even more people with mental health problems can take action to challenge stigma and discrimination in their communities, in workplaces, in schools and online.
CreatingÂ a sustainable campaign that will continue long into the future.
One in four of us in any year
Statistically, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year. We all have mental health and at any given time our mental health will sit somewhere on a scale ranging from feeling great to feeling awful. This will change and it is normal for it to change and consequently our mental health can tip below a point where it starts to cause us problems. At this point when we need help and could do with talking about how we feel, unfortunately we often do not talk.
The Time To Change website reports the following;
The overwhelming majority of people with mental health problems report being misunderstood by family members, shunned and ignored by friends, work colleagues and health professionals, called names and much worse by neighbours.
Stigma and discrimination prevent people from seeking help: this can delay treatment and impair recovery.Â It isolates people, excludingÂ them from day-to-day activities and making it hard to build new relationships or sustain current ones. It can stop people getting or keeping jobs.
Experiencing a mental health problem is hard enough, without having to deal with the shame and isolation that often comes with it.
Mental Health problems can feel isolating as mentioned above. We should always remember our shared Humanity. We are all human beings having an experience of life. Part of this experience of life is that we have difficult times and challenges. Some of these challenges may by short in duration and some may last longer. Whatever we experience is part of being human and we are not alone in these experiences. Many other people have been through what you are going through, you are not the only person to feel the way you feel. When we allow ourselves to remember this and accept ourselves as being a human being having a human experience we can take a step back from our feelings of isolation.
Despite what lifestyle magazines, health and fitness magazines and social media portray, pretty much everyone will experience a mental health challenge at some point in their life. This is part of being human. Just as at some point in our life we will likely have physical health problems so too will we experience mental health problems. We are all human. Give yourself permission to be human and accept yourself as being human.
An opportunity to connect
Time To Talk day gives us an opportunity to connect with a greater sense of being part of a wider human experience of life. When we talk to others about mental health we work to remove the stigma around it. We spread the message that it is ok to not feel ok. It is part of our shared experience of being human to not feel ok.
Both Steve and I are open about our own mental health. Steve has detailed on our website in the About us section how it was a period of depression and mental health difficulties that led us to a regular yoga practice. Who knew that it would ultimately take us to where we are now! It was through talking about the challenges that he was facing that Yoga was recommended to us.
Steve, like many of us, has been through a number of episodes of depression and anxiety and continues to use the tools he has learnt over time to manage his mental health in his daily life. This has included talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), medication, yoga, healthy eating, self-care, mindfulness and exercise (too many to list!). And caring for our dog Archie! Steve has also learnt that no matter how bad things seem at the time, it will pass and you will feel better in time.
One of my own experience of my Mental Health becoming a problem was with work related stress and anxiety. I can clearly recall sitting at my desk with a huge amount of work to do. Due to this my head felt like it was in a whirl and consequently I sat there unable to do anything. I felt frozen with anxiety. I felt aware that something was wrong and decided to take a walk in the fresh air. Upon returning to the office one of the receptionist asked me if I had been for a jog. As a result of this I went and looked in the mirror and saw someone who did indeed look they had been for a jog, sweating and red in the face.
In that moment, I made the decision to log off and go home. I used Yoga, walking and swimming to help me get through this difficult period. Sometimes I did not want to do those activities, but I never regretted when I did. Slowly I felt on more of an even keel. As a result of this period, I became more aware of what triggered my anxiety and stress. I explored Mindfulness more deeply and began to develop my tool kit of things to help me.
When we feel ok
Time to Change detail on their website that a lot of people think Mental Health is something that does not effect them or the people around them. This in itself is isolating. As a result of this way of thinking people are removing themselves from this shared human experience. We are all in this together. Let us remember this when we are feeling ok and be there for others. Take time to listen compassionately and mindfully to others, do not try to solve others problems, but listen to them. If we feel ok lets make sure we keep our eyes open for those who do not.
Our life long journey
Our life long journey is to learn to live with our fluctuating mental health. The fluctuations of our minds and our emotions. With Yoga, Mindfulness and self-compassion we can build our resilience and tool kit to navigate our way through life. Whatever we experience is part of being human, we are not alone. In my experience, we can learn to control our reactions to stressful events a little more, we can learn what our triggers are. As a result we can experience life less like an extreme rollercoaster and more like a gentle fairground ride! Difficulties still arise, mental health may still raise it’s head as a problem, life can throw many challenges at us. Talking can help us. It is Time to Talk and to help end discrimination and stigma around mental health.
It is likely to be widely reported that today is ‘Blue Monday’, apparently ‘the most depressing day of the year’. A quick google search reveals that the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ was actually coined by Sky Travel in 2005! (The google search also prompted me to listen to New Order whilst writing this blog!) I’m not sure how calling a day ‘the most depressing day of the year’ is meant to be helpful to us but it might just help to sell a few holidays! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Monday_(date)
It did get me thinking, however, that there is something to this concept of ‘Blue Monday’. It’s January in the UK. Christmas is a distant memory. The days are apparently getting longer but it’s a slow process. I could swear that’s it’s getting darker and not lighter in the mornings! It’s cold! It’s often raining and grey. We’re still awaiting payday! My point is….is it any wonder that all this can affect our mood?
Accessing our inner calm
However, regardless of all of the above, it is comforting to know that internally we can access a constant, calm space within us that is always there. It is unmoved by the changing of the seasons. It may be very difficult to access at times. Particularly with all the external factors that can affect how we feel (weather, work, relationships, whatever else is going on in our lives). However, this calm, constant space is still there, despite all this.
But how do we access this calmness? Well the first part of this is knowing it is there. Knowing that it can be accessed with practice. A breathing practice, bringing attention to the inhale and the exhale. Simply observing the breath, without judgement. This can help us begin to access this calmness within. The breath is always with us. But how often do we pay attention to our own breath? Thoughts and feelings will of course arise whilst we observe the breath, wanting our attention. Instead of giving attention to these thoughts/feelings, gently guide your attention back to observing the breath. There are innumerable breathing techniques (pranayama) to help us in finding this sense of calmness within. So regardless of whatever else is going on, with practice we can help manage our stress levels using our own breath, the constant calm space that is within all of us.
Yoga posture (asana) practice is also great at helping us access that calm space within. Bringing our attention to how the body is feeling in a particular posture. The sensations you are noticing in the body and where are you noticing them? Also, breath-led movement, moving the body on an inhale and an exhale, creates a mindful practice whereby we are again bringing our attention, without judgement, to the sensations in the body. How often do we mindfully observe our bodies in our every day life?
And of course there are so many other actions that we can take to help us find this calmness within, a big part of which is to learn to treat ourselves with more compassion (ahimsa). We often find it easier to treat others with compassion than we do ourselves, especially when we’re perhaps not feeling our best. Treat yourself! Find and do the things that you enjoy, those things that make you feel good. Yes, the weather might be less than ideal at this time of year for many of us, but use this as reason to enjoy a cosy night in, a nice relaxing, hot bath, etc. Give some thought to what you can do to help you find that inner calm.
So yes, it may be hard to find that inner sense of calm particularly at this time of year, and it may be easier said than done (I know I’ve felt like that many times!). But there are many ways in which we can all try to help ourselves find that constant inner calm, regardless of all external factors, and before we realise it maybe that third Monday in January, and then the rest of the winter, might not feel so ‘blue’ after all!
Hi Everyone, some of you may be aware that we are taking part in an exciting trial around our chair based Gentle Years Yoga class. Here is an article written by Laura Bissell who, along with Jenny Howsam created Gentle Years Yoga;
OnÂ 30th June, nine northern BWY Gentle Years Yoga (GYY) teachers met at the Principal Hotel in York for the first Standardisation Training Day in preparation for Septemberâ€™s launch of the NIHR Research Trial classes. The next Standardisation Day will be on 23rd November in Birmingham for research teachers involved in the second wave of classes in 2020 to take place in the southern half of England and Wales.
Laura Bissell and Jenny Howsam opened the day with a yoga centering session, followed by inspiring talks from Chief Investigator Dr Garry Tew and Professor Tim Rapley from Northumbria. Trial Manager Helen Tilbrook, Trial Coordinator Shirley Paul and Research Fellow Laura Howe from York went through the formal process that would be used to recruit patients from GP surgeries and the procedures the yoga teachers would need to follow in order to set up the classes.
â€œIt was good to hear that the research so far has shown that yoga might be a useful â€˜interventionâ€™ with the ability to address multiple health conditions at the same time, simply and at low cost to the NHSâ€™ said BWY teacher Rachel Bayliss from Chesterfield. â€˜As yoga teachers, we may feel we already â€˜knowâ€™ this but if this Trial can prove this, then it may lead to more funding and more support for yoga teachers wanting to offer these classes.â€
After lunch, Jenny and Laura taught modifications required for a new Age-Related Condition section of the training in response to GPsâ€™ suggestions for inclusion in the Trial and they covered yoga sequences that teachersâ€™ course plans would need to follow for research standardisation and consistency.
â€œUndertaking the training was a fantastic CPD decision.Â The training is inspiring and imaginative and equips you to create your own interesting and layered chair-based yoga sessionsâ€™ said Yogasmiths Paul Smith and Stephen Smith from Merseyside.Â â€˜We have been amazed at the change in the people who attend our classes. People with degenerative disease regain strength in their legs and improve their sitting to standing, those with lung diseases have reported their lung capacity checks have shown good improvement from the breathing exercises, but the most profound change is the mental health of the attendees. Some have reported that the GYY class is the highlight of their week.Â It is lovely to watch the friendship groups forming.Â They rally around in support of one another.â€ Â
Clare Gardner from Merseyside summed up the day, â€œl thought the Standardisation days was useful, fun and informative. It was a great day. â€œ
Celia Grieve from Ripon reported â€œIt was so good to meet the other Research Teachers and the organisers of the Trial. It answered all the questions I had about delivering the classes. The whole team are enthusiastic and excited about taking this forward.â€
â€œIt felt as though the Trial will make an important transformational changeâ€™ Stephanie Braysmith from Beverley expressed. â€˜Hopefully one which will spread throughout the whole of the U.K.â€