Free community yoga courses 2018

Free community yoga courses 2018

Michael and I are super happy to announce that we have funding to run more free community yoga courses in 2018. 

We are currently looking for charities and social enterprises to partner with.  If you work for an organisation you think might be interested, please get in touch for an informal chat.  If you know an organisation that you think might be a great match, please let us know too!

Over the last two years we’ve run courses in collaboration with:

LASS who provide services for people affected by HIV and Aids.

After 18 who provide support for unaccompanied asylum seekers.

Pride Without Borders, a support group for LGBT asylum seekers.

Home Group who, amongst other things, provide accommodation and services for ex-offenders.

Project Polska who provide activities to help Eastern European migrants integrate in the UK.

– Dani

New class fees policy

The Be Happy Yoga Project 

Class fees policy

There are two basic rates for all of our open yoga classes; one for people on low income (low income) and one for medium and above income (standard).

We ask you to be responsible for paying the appropriate fee as we accept everything on trust.  It can be difficult for people to judge where they fall on the spectrum financially, so we would ask you to take into account your unique individual circumstances.  For example, if you’re a retired person with a large pension and your own home, or a student whose parents pay all your living costs and provide a sizeable allowance, you’re probably not a concession. If you’re supporting other people financially on a modest income, you may be.  Another way of thinking about it might be to consider what you spend your income on each week.  If it is almost entirely made up of necessities, then you are probably the low income rate.  However, if you have plenty left over for entertainment, eating out at restaurants and buying luxuries then you would unlikely be.    

Some thoughts to bear in mind:

  • Classes have to be financially viable in order to take place.
  • This work is the way we make our living.
  • The giving and receiving of teaching is grounded in a balanced exchange of energies.
  • Among the ethical foundations of yoga are satya (honesty) and asteya (taking only what you need).

If you can realistically pay the full rate, please pay it. If you need the low income rate, then please take it.  We would always prefer you at the class paying the low income rate than not to have you there at all!

We are incredibly grateful to those of you who give the pay it forward rate as this enables those on low incomes to come to classes too!  Thank you.

Work exchange policy

If class fees are beyond your means, then it’s sometimes possible to arrange a work exchange. In this case we would ask you to make a commitment to the class and to the work. Please contact us to discuss if this is your situation. We may from time to time also invite individuals directly to participate in work exchange.

We are currently interested in work exchange with a professional photographer. 

Free community yoga courses

We offer a number of free community yoga courses each year aimed at marginalised groups.  Please contact us if you believe you fall within one of these groups and are interested in a place on one of these courses. 

Free 10 class passes

We understand that sometimes people are experiencing a difficult time in their lives physically, mentally and emotionally.  They may need yoga, but be unable to pay at all or feel that they have any energy to offer for a work exchange.  They may also not be categorised as in a marginalised group.  Please contact us directly if you are in this category as we may, from time to time, be able to offer free 10 classes for a small number of individuals who fit the above description.

Danielle & Michael

Ask a Yoga Teacher…

Our Ask a Yoga Teacher series continues with the following question.

Why don’t you play music during your yoga classes?

“While we know there are many people who enjoy listening to music while practising yoga asana, the lineage we are trained in makes a habit of keeping classes music-free.  This is partially to create a calm environment that is as inclusive as possible (not everyone likes the same kinds of music or is in the same place emotionally or mentally in each class), and partially because we believe that music has a great potential to distract our students from the teacher’s instructions, and from their own internal experience.  Not having music in class is, in many ways, very similar to keeping one’s eyes closed during the practice (which we continually suggest).  Having one less avenue for the senses to engage with, more energy is freed up.  While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that there are benefits to one’s mood that can arise from listening to a well-curated playlist, our classes are set in silence in the hope that you will bring that extra energy towards looking at the mind, and towards learning to change your mood without external props.  The mind does not like silence.  It wants to be engaged and entertained.  By attempting to keep the class without distraction, we hope to create a space for our students to engage instead with their mind, to get a taste of the meditation for which the yoga asanas are only a preparatory exercise.” – Michael



The Yamas and Niyamas: A Brief Overview Following a Long Digression

In modern culture, Yoga has largely become a by-word for a certain routine of stretching, exercise and relaxation, and little else.  Those who do Yoga casually may also know of the breathing exercises (pranayam), mudras, and possibly even kriyas (purification rites) and bandhas (energetic locks).  As in most aspects of life, what we know about our world, or the niches within that we’ve explored, has a tremendous amount to do with who our teachers have been.

In the context of a hatha yoga class, these above mentioned topics may or may not come up, depending on the depth to which the student pursues the topic, and the experience of the teacher.  I, for instance, have some limited understanding of bandhas but would not integrate them into my class, because my training didn’t include it, and because the potential for complications increases with the complexity of the tasks being given to the students.

Given that most people who come to a yoga class in the west pursue yoga asanas specifically, and experience it predominantly through the lens of teacher-led asana classes, it is not surprising that there is much that doesn’t fully enter the vocabulary of the new yoga student.  It is here that I will draw the fine line between the yoga student, and the sadhaka (spiritual seeker).  While the yoga student seeks out the more physical aspects of yoga for often quite materialistic reasons (to feel healthier, to lose weight, to cope with pain), the sadhaka approaches yoga from an internal compulsion to reach the heights of spiritual attainment.

Now, let me clear that this is not a value judgment.  One may no more make themselves a sadhaka than they can make themselves a musical virtuoso.  One may learn anything through great effort, but it is impossible to attain to the kind of internal and consistent drives that results from being born to something.  Moreover, whatever reason one comes to seek yoga, the practice has the potential to facilitate transformation regardless.  As in all things, the shape that the transformation will take will be the result of the motivation, intention, and application of disciplined will.

Regardless, only those who’ve inquired into yoga outside of the classroom, or who have particularly chatty and philosophically prone teachers, will have heard of the yamas and niyamas (with exceptions of course).  To sum it up briefly, the yamas and niyamas are the ‘dos’ and ‘do nots’ of classical Raja Yoga.  They represent the ground floor of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga (not be confused with the trademarked and codified techniques as created by K. Pattabhi Jois).

In following posts, I plan to delve into each of the five yamas and the five niyamas, examining them and how they fit into our modern lives, and to what extent we can attain to doctrinal adherence in our current society.  In each case, I intend to provide the background on the doctrinally pure attainment of each, and how one can find ways to integrate that into a world and a life which rarely makes room for absolutes.

It is almost certain that I will, through the course of my next ten works, say something that someone disagrees with.  It is impossible to please everyone, especially when discussing ancient doctrines and individual lifestyle choices.  As such, I beg that you understand these works as belonging wholly to me, and not being indicative of any truth beyond that of my personal experience and understanding, and to have compassion and remember that we’re all on the path exactly where we are.



Deep Roots


You have deep roots”, she told me.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Perhaps there was hope for our fledgling social enterprise after all.  She had asked me how working with homeless people and asylum seekers made me feel and why, and I while I was honestly stumped, I found myself revelling in the feeling too.  Here I was, communicating with someone who wasn’t content with my superficial answers about empowering people…words that I had batted back all too easily…words that I had subconsciously thought would please my questioner.  No this questioner was different.  She wanted more.  “But WHY does that make you feel good?”, she gently insisted.

And so I paused….for more than a moment, because the deeper answer took its time to bubble up.  It meant I had to sit in the discomfort of silence while neither of us said anything.  And though it seemed on the outside that nothing was happening, within my mind was whirring away…”why do I like working with people who are facing incredibly difficult situations?…because they are so often despised, scorned, ignored, left to fend for themselves, blamed for their own circumstances when I personally feel that our ‘system’ is what is really responsible?  Yes, certainly”, but I could sense it ran deeper than that.  I felt like an outsider as a child, as a teenager and often still now.  Of course I am in the world, but I also feel  separate from it; as if I don’t quite fit, as if I’m only observing.  For me this feeling of being an outsider has often brought tremendous pain, so of course I feel the tug at my heart by those cast as outsiders too.

Ten years ago I found yoga, or as yogis like to say, yoga found me.  The practice unexpectedly changed my life, subtly shifting the direction in which I’d been going.  It wasn’t exactly a magic overnight cure, but bit by bit, I would notice little changes: my anxiety was less pronounced and made itself known less often, my relationships seemed closer and more real , my affection for non-human life seemed greater and most notably the depression that had burdened me since my teenage years just faded away.  And then there were the instances of profound joy, the reemergence of play in my life and the moments of being shaken to my knees gratitude.  That all felt wonderful!

I don’t mean to make out that this was a nice gentle process, that if mapped out would look like a gentle upward gradient.  No, that would not reflect the richness of the process, the enormity of some of the struggles, the childhood hurt and existential angst that had to be worked through.  This transition on a graph would have looked more like the scribblings of a toddler….but even amidst the deepest pain there was always a part of me that was so glad that I had found yoga.  How could I not want to pass on to others what it had brought to me?  

And once I told her this she smiled and told me we had deep roots.  ”I see how deep they are when people start to mention their childhoods”, she said.  It was my turn to feel a moment of deep appreciation for my questioner.  She took me to a place, I hadn’t up to that point, noticed.  She is right, this mission of ours does run deep.  The message came when I had been losing faith about whether we can make this social enterprise work.  I’ve spent a lot of my life wondering why certain things have happened, why my life went in this or that direction.  It doesn’t often make sense at the time.  Yet, I have also noticed that if I wait long enough, hindsight does seem to bring clarity, somehow revealing order amidst the chaos.  It turns out there were never really any wrong turns along the way.  It all lead to this point.

And this point is where we are.  I’m not going to pretend that the doubt isn’t still there.  I’m wrestling with it daily.  Michael is too.  Our own little fight between the light and dark.  But I can’t say that life isn’t interesting because of it.