Iyengar Yoga Development Fund Teacher Profile: Helen White

The Iyengar Yoga Development Fund is a non-registered charitable fund that was started with the support of BKS Iyengar to assist disadvantaged groups in accessing Iyengar yoga classes.  40% of the licence fees paid by Iyengar yoga teachers each year goes towards this invaluable work.

The IYDF enables Iyengar yoga teachers to reach some of our society’s most challenged members. This week, Helen White shares her experience of teaching at Leeds Prison

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HMP Leeds

“HMP Leeds is a large, local, men’s prison quite near where I live.  I have been teaching Iyengar Yoga classes there since 2008, but the places where I teach have varied a lot over that time.  Originally I taught men on a Safer Custody programme, where groups of men would spend an intensive three weeks looking at addiction, relaxation, harmful behaviour, bullying, and many other aspects of their lives, together with yoga once a week.  When this programme closed, I then took referrals from the mental health nurses who ran a waiting list of men keen to attend the classes.  I saw them for 6 weeks.  There was then a time when I didn’t teach because of staff cuts, but I went back about 18 months ago to a long-term wing where I teach men who would not fit into other wings of the prison – because of mental health problems, bullying, health issues, or they are on a 24 hour watch.  The advantage is that I can see the same men over a longer period; the disadvantage is that some of them have ailments that make them unable or unwilling to attend the class.hmp leeds

During all my time there, I have been aware of the benefits of teaching yoga, even if only for one class (as often happens).  At the least, it gives the men 90 minutes out of their normal space – they can tune in to their bodies, notice that their hamstrings are tight, or their shoulders uneven, and also realise that they are really good at some poses.  Some of the men have said that when they are in the class, it’s as if they aren’t in prison for that time.  They also say that they sleep better after the class.

After my class there, I am tired and exhilarated.  I’m so lucky to be able to go in and teach Iyengar Yoga, and very grateful to the IYDF for their support over the years.  My salary for teaching these classes is shared by the prison and by the IYDF.   I also get support from the Prison Phoenix Trust who send newsletters in to prisoners, and support the network of yoga teachers who work in about 94 prisons currently.”

See Helen’s teacher profile and classes here 

To make a donation to the IYDF please click here