The College of Medicine has supported the development and roll-out of the Teen Yoga Ambassador pilot scheme, which ran in April 2021. Here, Charlotta Martinus, Director of the Teen Yoga Foundation, explains how the new training course empowers young people to help their peers using yoga for better mental health…
The Teen Yoga Ambassador course aims to empower young people to share well-being tips with their peers in all contexts. The students go through a rigorous selection process involving their parents, their yoga teachers and Teen Yoga Foundation staff. They are carefully selected from a group of 14 to 18-year-olds from across the country according to their yoga experience, their mental stability and their leadership skills.
Students then undergo a 20-hour training programme that has been developed together with CAMHS psychiatrists, school teachers and yoga therapists. The course is acknowledged and supported by Public Health England and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
Attendees are taught the basic science behind the cortisol response and more importantly how the relaxation response works and how to initiate it. They are also taught the benefits of yoga for young people specifically and given resources to support them in sharing this knowledge.
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Most of these students know someone who is actively either self-harming, has an eating disorder or has suicidal ideation. They themselves have suffered from a range of issues, ranging from being bullied to eating disorders and severe anxiety, which they have overcome through yoga.
The course is student-led with only 12 attending; and they are encouraged to open up about their personal experiences of mental health issues and those of their friends. These are then examined in the light of yoga and we explore together which particular yoga practices supported them. Finally, we all discuss how best to share these practises with friends.
On the pilot course, students asked for how they’d found the experience responded positively. One said: “I feel like I found a new family, because the people in here are also interested in yoga and similar things”. Another added: “I liked the course information and I learnt alot more about yoga.”
The final goal of the course is for these 12 ambassadors to go out in their schools and clubs and share yoga voluntarily to alleviate common mental health issues such as anxiety, loneliness and bullying.
If they pass the rigorous course, they are invited to continue to Level 2 and then Level 3. Any young person within the age range can apply via teenyogaambassadors.co.uk, with young people from all around the world encouraged and
one bursary offered per course.
The next TeenYoga Ambassadors course will take place on Saturdays 3rd, 17th, 24th July online, find out more at teenyogaambassadors.co.uk.
The foundation is actively looking to roll out this course in local areas together with the local CCGs and Social Prescribing teams, please get in touch if you are interested at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are seeking partnerships too, that would enable less privileged young people to join on a bursary, please do contact us if you would like to partner with us or be a patron for one of these young people. On the last course we had 4 young people who would have been excellent candidates, but who could not join for financial reasons, all from diverse cultural backgrounds.