"True joy can be found in the service of all creatures and in this is the wisdom and meaning of life."
~ Sri Deep Narayan Mahaprabuji
Yoga in Daily Life Melbourne is a not for profit community organisation. Inspired by the life and teachings of Vishwaguruji Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda we offer Yoga in Daily Life based programs to improve the wellbeing of people and groups in our local community who would normally have difficulty in their ability to access yoga.
Anyone who has ever rolled out a yoga mat across the floor will tell you that it's about more than flexibility. Our own practice of Yoga in Daily Life has personally given us tools to support us to live life with enhanced health and harmony. The teachings also emphasis the benefits of seva, selfless service.
We found in the Yoga in Daily Life System, particularly level 1, a therapeutic effect that benefited people with challenging needs.
Here is a summary of some programs that have been offered:
The Brotherhood of St Laurence
For 12 months in 2005 Yoga in Daily Life ran a program at the Brotherhood of St Laurence premises in Fitzroy to homeless people. A weekly 40 minute gentle level 1 Yoga in Daily Life class. With up to 10 people, generally in the 50+ age group, participating each week, the benefits for these people who have nothing on a material level, and very little in terms of support, these weekly classes were a highly anticipated joyful part of their week.
The benefits include (but not limited to):
- a positive connection with other humans - inclusion and socialisation in a safe and familiar environment
- creating ease in the body that was experiencing a rough life and was growing older
- giving relaxation from the anxiety of an insecure and sometimes unsafe life
It may seem a small thing, but it meant a lot to the people who participated.
For 6 months in 2008, we ran a weekly Yoga in Daily Life class for up to 10 people with mental health issues receiving support from Mind Australia. To help them integrate positively into society part of the program was that they traveled by public transport to the Yoga in Daily Life centre and participated in a 60 minute class.
The group was not generally active and on a medication that made the muscles tight and the mind duller, therefore fitness and muscle tone were poor, as was the capacity to concentrate and follow instruction.
Level 1 of the Yoga in Daily Life system was gently introduced, practicing less repetitions and with regular short rests between movements. The sessions started with a short guided relaxation and full yogic breathing and finished with a longer relaxation. At this point in their journey, meditation was not a suitable practice.
At first the practitioners were nervous, but quickly became comfortable in the welcoming environment where they were reassured to practice at their own comfortable capacity.
There were noticeable benefits with participants experiencing a range of changes including:
This was a very challenging practice for the participants, but one they regularly commented that they appreciated. Inside their head was a lot of tension and anxiety and the relaxation gave relief which is huge by itself. As we all know from our own experience, when the mind is tense the perception becomes limited and negative. When the mind is relaxed we see the world more openly and positively.
The group was mainly young people in their 20's. It is already an awkward age were many people are still finding themselves, made more challenging when you have to deal with mental heath problems and the stigma attached to that. As the program went on participants
- felt ok to express how they were feeling
- ok to be themselves, better control of thoughts
- improved focus
- did not hold back in shyness and
- became braver to try new practices.
A few years after this program finished, I by chance met one of the participants at a public program we were both attending. She still remembered everything and again thanked us for the support in her recovery.
The Alfred Hospital
For 5 years! 2009 - 2014 a Yoga in Daily Life program was integrated in to the volunteer program offered to patients in the Psychiatric Ward at the Alfred Hospital. Varying from 1 to up to 8 people, this weekly very gentle level 1 and relaxation class was attended by different people each week in the lounge area of the ground floor ward. Far from easy to teach, it was necessary to be ready to adapt to the needs and issues that presented themselves each time. The participants were usually on a high level of medication.
With varying types and intensities of mental health conditions Level 1 of the Yoga in Daily Life system offered these people:
- the techniques to get out of their head and into their body, grounding, returning to the present moment.
- relaxation from the stress of their illness and the stress of being in hospital
- a positive activity that made them feel physically better and at ease in their body
The person that ran the music therapy program in this ward commented that there was a noticeable change of calm enveloping the whole ward during and for some time after each yoga session. Therefore even those people who did not participate in the class were also benefiting.
Streat offers disadvantaged youth aged 16 to 25 a supported pathway from the street (homeless or from dysfunctional families) to a sustainable livelihood. They combine wrap-around social support with industry training and work experience. We were approached by someone from Streat (who happen to be Yoga in Daily Life student) to offer some classes as part of their social support and life skills program.
This began in August 2015. To date we have given 2 classes with more planned.
So far we have had a group of 6 agitated young people coming from challenging childhoods of alcohol and drug abuse, violence, dropping out of school - you can read more on their website. They were all very positive and open to the experience of yoga. The social workers told me they would not be able to relax. At the beginning of the class I believed that. We went through some Level 1 asana of the Yoga in Daily Life System, starting with those asanas that are easier. Observing they were quite capable we progressed to Khatu Pranam. Nervous to offer this because one of the participants had only one arm, we went through slowly at first and then into a flow. The entire group could do it! Surprising the social workers the youth relaxed without any movement at the end of the session!
Throughout the session insight was offered on asanas for calming the mind, to quieten and focus the mind, calming energy, boosting energy, improved posture, positive, open mental outlook. As we continue we will offer more guidance on relaxation, the mind and managing thoughts and emotions.
Community Class and Free Yoga
Since 2001 a regular weekly Community Class has been part of our program. The Community Class is a Level 1 Yoga in Daily Life class at a very low cost that attracts particularly senior citizens and people with low or no income.
Free Yoga classes are offered throughout the year and open to everyone such as Yoga in the Park on Australia Day (26.1), the International Day of Yoga (21.6) and on the International Day of Peace (21.9).
As well as the above mentioned activities, in Melbourne, Yoga in Daily Life has a dedicated centre in Richmond offering classes, courses and workshops. Plus weekly classes in Doncaster, Ivanhoe and Pascoe Vale.
The journey continues for all of us in our own practice on all levels and we are grateful for the opportunity to 'give back' a little of what has been given to us.