Yoga in Parliament: Q&A with Kate
On 27 June, Ari Iso-Rautio, the co-founder of Lumi Foundation, and Kate Goodhart, head of development for Lumi Foundation, represented the Foundation at the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Yoga in Society. In this month’s blog, Kate shares her reflections.
Q: What is the APPG for Yoga in Society?
The APPG for Yoga in Society exists to promote the benefits of yoga and support the inclusion of yoga in different areas across the UK – in healthcare, social care, criminal justice, occupational health and education.
We were delighted to be invited to join the recent meeting. The focus was on yoga’s importance in improving child and adolescent mental health. The group heard that alongside the growing popularity of yoga, there is a growing evidence base supporting the benefits of yoga.
Q: What is an APPG?
All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) consist of Members of both Houses of Parliament – the House of Commons and the House of Lords – who join together to discuss areas of common interest. APPGs are cross-party, which means they must be open to all members of both Houses, regardless of political affiliation. APPGs cover a range of subjects and provide a valuable opportunity for discussion between parliamentarians and those outside Westminster.
Q: What does the APPG have to do with the Lumi Foundation?
The APPG and Lumi Foundation are aligned in many ways. We believe in the transformative effects of yoga and see the benefits for individuals and communities, as we bring yoga out of the studio and work to make it affordable and accessible for everyone. We see community and connection fostered in every class and recognise the physical, mental and social wellbeing benefits that our yogis enjoy.
It was a great afternoon and as we left, the security detail on the gate at Cromwell Green commented that everyone who came to this meeting looked very zen! Proof that yoga works its magic even when we are gathering to discuss challenging topics.
Q: What was discussed?
The line-up of attendees and speakers was impressive. There was recognition from all speakers of the importance of shoring up children’s and young people’s mental health, to prepare them for their futures. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was heavily referenced – although speakers also recognised that there are many other pressures that young people face today.
We heard from clinical specialists and from yoga teachers, from yoga therapists at the forefront of their fields and from young people whose lives and wellbeing have been enormously impacted by their experience of yoga.
Q: What did the experts have to say?
Dr Jon Goldin is a Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Child Health. He described Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) as being under tremendous pressure, particularly during the pandemic. Unable to access CAMHS, children and adolescents are presenting to A&E in crisis and being admitted to paediatric wards, which are hugely over-stretched.
We also heard from Dr Lana Jackson, a Senior Clinical Psychologist, mindfulness teacher and yoga therapist. Dr Jackson noted that the physical practice of yoga helps young people to access the benefits of mindfulness – movement, linking body and breath, energises and soothes the mind and body.
Charlotta Martinus, the founder of the TeenYoga Foundation, spoke how she has seen yoga improve teens’ mental health and outcomes. She notes that giving young people the tools to thrive, supporting them in building up their resilience and skills of self-regulation, has ripple effects that benefit the teen but also parents and siblings.
Jyoti Manuel, the founder of Special Yoga, spoke about the positive impact of yoga on children with special and additional needs. Jyoti focused on the value of the therapeutic impact of yoga on children’s and young people’s physical, mental, social and emotional lives, commenting on the benefits of introducing yoga to teachers.
The APPG also heard directly from young people whose lives had been turned around by their experience of yoga. Kwesia was introduced to yoga by Charlotta in a chance encounter – and acknowledges that it has given her a space and place to connect with herself.
Q: How is the government supporting yoga for young people?
The APPG, which is sponsored by Jonathan Lord MP, was well-attended by parliamentarians including Lord Desai, Lord Stone of Blackheath, Ben Bradshaw MP and Andrew Mitchell MP.
The secretariat is run by Heather Mason. Heather is a yoga therapist and a 500-hour yoga teacher, and holds degrees in Buddhist Studies, Psychotherapy and Medical Physiology. Heather is the founder of The Minded Institute and a director of Yoga in Healthcare Alliance, which works towards integrating yoga into the NHS.
Q: What were the calls to action?
Heather reminded the gathering that the Schools Bill was recently given its second reading in the House of Lords, and asked participants in the meeting to engage with colleagues across Westminster to join this APPG and seek an amendment to the Bill to expand access to yoga in schools across the country. She also invited non-parliamentary participants to encourage their MP to join the APPG and join the debate - we were delighted to introduce our local Member of Parliament for Hammersmith, Andy Slaughter, to yoga recently at our Friday class at AgeUK.
Read more about the APPG for Yoga in Society here.
Read more about the benefits of yoga for mental health in Rebecca Foster’s blog post for Lumi Foundation here.
Kate Goodhart is Head of Development at Lumi Foundation. She is responsible for promoting the charity, making connections with new charity partners and making grant applications.