As an educator with 20 plus years of experience, Aoife has been a teacher of home economics in diverse socio-economic backgrounds such as Limerick Prison, Mount Anville Secondary School, where she taught for 13 years, Belvedere College, Alexandra College and Loreto Beaufort. In Limerick 2013, she encountered learners with mental health and addiction issues, wide ranging learning disabilities and social and community problems. Her entire outlook of Ireland and the world broadened in that year. There she met yoga teacher Tadhg Ferriter and was amazed by the positive effects yoga was having on students in the prison.
For her MA in music technology at Limerick University, Aoife investigated performance within the limitations of voice and live electronics. In her quest to re-educate herself about movement (what does one do with one’s hands and feet without the crutch of piano and guitar?), she began to regularly attend yoga classes in Dublin after returning home there in 2014. With yoga suddenly an integral part of her life, she enrolled in Yoga Dublin’s 200 teacher training programme in 2016 and has been teaching a wide range of classes ever since.
As embodied and spiritual practices, yoga and music are parts Aoife felt missing, to bring her best self forward in her role as a home economics educator. The physiological effects and healing capacities of music are fully utilised from Aoife’s dynamic vinyasa 2 classes to peaceful and passive yin yoga. Currently writing a very difficult second album, she continues to offer yoga classes and retreats and teaches home economics, currently at Belvedere College. She is privileged to share her passion for food, sustainable living, gardening and the environment with her students. It feels like a balanced life. She teaches hatha, vinyasa and yin yoga to all levels.
Information for Beginners
The section below describes a six-week yoga course I gave to parents in DEIS schools. This was in collaboration with Home School Community Liaison Scheme.
1.1. YOGA WITHIN THE HSCLO CONTEXT
“A photographer gets people to pose for him. A yoga instructor gets people to pose for themselves.”
From the first class, the practice of yoga provided a comprehensive, yet simple toolkit to help parents navigate the challenges of modern child rearing.
A yoga practice enhances the goals of the Home School Community Liaison Scheme; to raise the educational level of parents; to empower the local community; to provide an opportunity for the personal development of parents; to enact a positive effect on tackling educational disadvantage and to transfer a wellbeing tool to parents, which they can in turn positively influence their children to make good decisions and importantly, to continue educational participation.
1.2. A SUMMARY OF THE BENEFITS OF YOGA
|The Benefits of Yoga||Example|
|Physical||Increases lung capacity and results in more efficient breathing. Increases flexibility, builds muscle strength,
Improves posture, prevents cartilage and joint breakdown, protects the spine, weight bearing exercise for healthy bone density, improves balance, coordination and moving with ease. Improves digestive function.
|Emotional||Builds self-acceptance, self-compassion and inner strength, yoga teaches emotional self-regulation, builds emotional intelligence, resilience and increases confidence and self-esteem.
Yoga is a coping strategy for anxiety, stress and depression
|Social||Interpersonal intelligence, i.e. yoga improves our relationship to others through the cultivation of greater equanimity, truth telling, compassion and friendliness. It improves executive function through self-awareness, therefore cultivating appropriate behavioural responses. There is a strong sense of community and feeling connected to others within a yoga class.|
|Cognitive||Yoga is mindfulness in motion and therefore, it helps people to focus. It improves memory, co-ordination and reaction time. Again, through greater self-awareness, decision-making skills are improved. Therefore yoga helps with problem solving. Yoga gives peace of mind and slows down unhelpful mental loops.|
|Personal||Intrapersonal intelligence. Improved self-awareness through meditation aspects of the practice. Aids personal transformation through the practice of working through unhelpful and destructive emotions. Increases feelings of being connected to others. Thematic yoga classes provide a platform to set personal intentions. There is a clarity that comes with the practice and helps creativity and visualisation.|
|Other health aspects||*Improves function of the nervous system to induce relaxation, promote better sleep and reduce tension
*Helps prevent physical illness, boost the immune system, and reduce the change of injury and disease.
*Yoga and mindfulness can be used to manage pain and lower medication doses.
Providing yoga classes for parents within the HSCLO scheme, was a health intervention to respond to the needs of parents to cultivate self awareness, confident leadership, and compassion for the self, their partners and dependents.
2.0. ABOUT THE YOGA CLASS
“Yoga itself does not have any religion. It is self transformation for wellbeing”.
2.1. TYPES OF YOGA
Most physical posture yoga classes are dynamic and ‘yang’ in nature, creating heat and are an excellent workout. A vinyasa class is a class which moves through various hatha postures through a ‘vinyasa’ which is a sequence of standing in mountain pose, a forward fold, a lunge, a plank pose, a hover to the belly, a sphinx/cobra/up-dog pose (which are small back bends for the spine) and downward facing dog pose which turns the body into an inverted ‘V’ shape. There are systems of physical posture yoga classes such as the Ashtanga system and Bikram yoga which follow the same sequence each time. Variations also occur due to room temperature. A Yin yoga practice is a static practice, focusing on longer holds to reach an appropriate edge of stressing the deep connective tissue and sequences are often designed to correspond with Chinese meridian theory. There are overlaps in all yoga systems.
2.2. WHAT TO EXPECT IN A HATHA AND VINYASA CLASS
Hatha yoga and vinyasa classes generally start with a seated or reclining breathing practice. An intention may be set at this point. This follows with limbering movements, warming up movements, strengthening movements, balances, backbends, forward folds, twists, inversions, calming poses, savasana (the relaxation pose) and the class ends with a short meditation and breathing practice.
2.3. GENTLE YOGA FOR PARENTS PARTICIPATING IN THE HSCLO COURSE
The yoga taught to parents as part of the HSCLO scheme composed of a breakdown of the vinyasa system in a gentle yoga format to make it accessible and inclusive to all who participated. Meditative Yin postures featured at the beginning and end of most classes. The course was progressive and practice based. There was no lecture. Teaching was activity based for the entire duration of the class and parents were encouraged to practice the most basic yoga poses from the very beginning. Modifications and props were used and provided by me. Emphasis was on working within ones own range and capacity. As always, the classes were safe and non-competitive. Humour and questioning were encouraged. There was a strong emphasis on relaxation and letting go of tension in the body for this series of classes for absolute beginners. Meditation and mindfulness were introduced through basic breathing exercises.
3.0. LEARNING OUTCOMES
The parents learnt simple breathing technique to calm and balance the mind.
The parents practiced a range of core yoga poses
The parents explored their range of movement
The parents corrected postural imbalances
The parents explored flexibility and strength
The parents developed greater mobility, coordination and balance
The parents were given the opportunity to accept their current capacity for movement with non-judgement and self compassion.
The parents became aware of simple movements which can be practiced to combat stress, anxiety, depression and hormonal imbalances.
The parents felt a sense of community with each other through a shared experience and common ground as parents with children in the same school.
The parents, through personal meditation, were given the opportunity to reflect on their behavioural responses to difficult situations within a safe and private environment.
The gentle movements practiced were ‘flow’ based and therefore an immersive experience and a means to temporarily forget worries and to cultivate focus.
Through meditation, the parents were be given the opportunity to reflect on unhelpful mental patterns and internal dialogue which might hold them back.
From finding humour and achievement within the struggle or misstep of a pose, to becoming more coordinated with their physical body in space, the parents who participated in this course become better empowered to cope with stress and the world as they find it.
4.0. ORGANISATION OF THE COURSE
The course was delivered in the morning time after children were dropped to school. I liased with the HSCLO who made all the necessary preparations regarding parental enrollment and room availability.
4.1. DURATION AND STRUCTURE OF THE COURSE
A six week course at the same time of one hour per week provided continuity and assisted in the progressive nature of the course.
There was full enrolment of 29 parents. Weekly attendance was between 14-18. This was a high rate of participation compared to other exercise regimes and health initiatives where the drop off rate would be high.
4.3. EQUIPMENT REQUIRED
The school did not need to provide any equipment. All props except for mats were provided by the instructor. Parents were asked to wear loose comfortable clothing.
Yoga classes for parents provided a practical solution to empower parents and carers to better understand themselves and therefore build resilience and strength when navigating the challenges of parenting. Inviting parents into the school for a yoga class focused directly on the significant adults in children’s lives. Through greater equanimity, self-truth telling, compassion and friendliness, all relationships were improved and I believe there were direct benefits for the children themselves. Thus, the yoga class helped young people reach their potential and provided for the personal, leisure and learning needs of parents, so as to promote their self- worth and self- confidence, to have a positive impact on their children’s education