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Testing the Principles of the Coaching Plan for England – by Anthony Statham

In October 2016 a group of female Youth Workers from Brighton & Hove attended a yoga course delivered by Live Love Yoga. Following insight from discussions with an attendees on the course and the tutor with Active Sussex it was identified that additional support would be beneficial.

The support identified included informal development through mentoring, networking and technical input. This project is part of a programme that is testing the principles of the Coaching Plan for England that was launched in November 2016. Eva Baker, one of the youth workers has written a blog to capture her experience to date….

Training to be a yoga teacher is something that I had wanted to do for a while, but felt somehow out of reach. Training courses cost thousands of pounds and seemed be something that you went off to India to do in order to ‘find yourself’ and lose your cash at the same time.

The more time I spent working with young people in Brighton and Hove, the more I realised that we need practical and simple solutions to equip young people to deal with their challenging lives and increasingly difficult environments.

It’s no secret that modern life is stressful. More people, but disproportionately young people, are affected by mental health problems than ever. In a recent study, high anxiety levels amongst young people were attributed to factors like lack of exercise, stress from school and exams, bad diet, lots of screen time and intensive use of social media.

All of these things increase stress and change young minds in ways that we haven’t been able to fully explore yet. In many ways this generation is growing up in a world unrecognisable to the generations before them.

What we need is an antidote to this stress which has become part and parcel of our modern existence. What if there was something practical you could do to train your mind to cope better with difficult feelings of anxiety? In my opinion, yoga is a good antidote.

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India, and is now practiced all over the globe. The word yoga means ‘union’, and the practices aims to achieve a union of body, mind and spirit. Yoga can increase strength, flexibility and even help you to breathe better.

When the opportunity came up to do a youth yoga training course, I was really excited about what this would bring. I did the training with Live Love Yoga as part of a small group of youth workers, all of whom were interested in yoga and bringing it into their work with young people as a therapeutic tool.

I really got a lot out of the training and found it to be very practical and grounded, and the teacher Nathalie definitely acknowledged some of the challenges of working with young people, and advised us on how to encourage them to try something they are maybe unfamiliar with.

I enjoyed bonding with the others in the group, and especially the physical element to the training. We would often start and end the day with a short yoga or meditation practice, and this in itself seemed to make all the things we were learning sink in and integrate on a deeper level.

I think there’s a fine line between being a ‘teacher’ and a ‘healer’. We think of yoga and mindfulness as practices that can heal people, improve their lives and help them deal better with their challenges.

Yoga is actually like teaching you the tools than can help you be your own healer, and when you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve you can practice them anywhere, in your own way, as and when you need them.

Since completing the training, I’ve recently started to bring yoga into the Young Women’s group I run in Bevendean. So far it’s been going great, and I’m working out a way to bring yoga into the sessions to enhance the energy of the group.

If people are feeling anxious and confrontational I call everyone together to do a short breathing meditation. If the girls are energised then I take some of them off to do stretching and poses which can feel ‘more like dancing or gymnastics’ to some of the more sporty ones.

I feel really grateful to have got the opportunity to train in something that truly enhances the work I do. Feedback from the girls so far has ranged from “Yoga can make you feel chilled when you feel vexed,” to “I feel nice and calm. Can we do it again next week?!”