by Emma Willmott
Mind in Croydon offer an ‘Active Minds’ service which provides a taster of activities to stimulate new interests, promote a healthy lifestyle and improve confidence for those with mental health problems.
‘Active Minds’ offer numerous activities from Boxercise to relaxation sessions, ‘Cook and Taste’ groups to swimming, Table Tennis to Horticulture Groups and more!
As a volunteer for Mind in Croydon, I went along to an ‘Active Minds’ Yoga class which uses breathing and stretching techniques for gentle relaxation.
After introductions from the other members and the Yoga instructor, Su, we were led through some gentle breathing exercises to use full breathing capacity and increase the oxygen flow in the blood and to reach both sides of the brain. Such breathing exercises aid relaxation but also reduce negative feelings. There were a surprising number of additional benefits, such as help with sleeping issues, thyroid problems, sore throats and strategies to help with panic attacks and remaining calm when stressed or anxious.
After breathing, we moved on to stretching exercises to help with strength, flexibility, dexterity, blood circulation and alleviation of pain such as lower back pain or neck problems. Gentle stretching also reduces stress as they relax tense muscles. One stretching exercise even had benefits for weight loss! What’s more, because stretching is a gentle exercise, it gives the same endorphin-boosting effects, improving mood.
The instructor carefully explained and demonstrated each exercise and told us how the activity benefitted our minds, body and wellbeing. Alternative positions and exercises were demonstrated if people struggled or if they had problems with their backs or necks.
Some exercises let out anger, increased happiness through laughing and rebalanced the 7 bodily pressure points. The Yoga session ended with a wellbeing prayer for good health and happiness.
I left the Yoga session feeling relaxed and calm. I discovered Yoga is a brilliant way to exercise gently and help soothe the body and mind. The class size was small, allowing individuals to get to know one another and adds a personal touch, with the instructor knowing everyone’s name and being able to help people individually with exercises.