Cartoon of a yoga session

Shanthi Yoga’s Hebe Reilly and her creation of a women’s yoga community

Yoga has become a very popular form of exercise and relaxation technique. Hebe Reilly, the yoga instructor of Shanthi Yoga Manchester, teaches classes at the Brunswick Parish Church every Tuesday morning and other locations around Manchester.

Sitting yoga pose on a pink yoga matt

She teaches different forms of yoga for all abilities, creating a very inclusive space for the community of Ardwick and Greater Manchester. I spoke to Hebe on the importance of a women’s community and how she’s overcome continuing to teach despite the pandemic.

She said: “Over time yoga has offered me so much more than a physical strengthening/rehabilitation tool.

“It gives me a sense of deep peace, and a pause from all of the ongoing busyness of the mind, and of daily life. 

“For many of the women in the group, they feel much more comfortable practising yoga and/or exercising in a women’s only space.

Hebe first became connected to Brunswick Parish Church when working as the Arts Facilitator leading a year-long project exploring the connection between arts, health and wellbeing with The Women’s Footprint Group.

The group is culturally diverse and intergenerational offering a ‘Creative Wellbeing’ programme by connecting the community through activities and events. After creating a 4-week taster course in yoga, it became very popular within the group.

“Initially I started practising yoga to help me deal with ongoing issues I have with my knees and I liked the physical practice.  

“Following the popularity of the 4 week course, we applied for some funding … later being funded by the NHS to continue to offer accessible yoga to women at Brunswick Parish Church.

In a highly student populated area, she explained the importance of taking time to relax: “What I love about yoga is that it is non-competitive, and it should always feel good to your body.  

“I hope to give others the opportunity to move and stretch their bodies – to feel a sense of freedom from pain and tension in the physical body.  I also offer breathing and relaxation techniques to help students feel a sense of freedom and peace.

Before the official government announcement Hebe offered a ‘chair yoga’ session she said: “There was a strange atmosphere as at the time we didn’t know what the future would hold in terms of lockdown or Coronavirus.

“The final session before the lockdown was very small – in fact only three women attended and two of them work at Brunswick Parish Church. We followed guidelines of social distancing.

Hebe has been able to move her classes online using Zoom to create a series of Chair Yoga videos for the members of the Women’s Footprint.

“I release these once a week on a Tuesday at the time when we used to have our classes at Brunswick. I hope this will offer some kind of sense of routine for women who are isolated at home.

“I have been really surprised at how the Zoom classes have been working for me too.  I had never heard of Zoom before lock-down.

“I have been really happy to be able to connect with my students via the online space and have started to offer new yoga courses which have been really popular.

“I think people are looking for ways to keep active during lockdown, and practising yoga is a good way to keep moving and introduce relaxation into your life.  It is a nice time to try new things and you can try yoga in the comfort of your own home. 

Pink yoga matt and white trainers

Whilst teaching others, Hebe added how important a routine is in helping protect your mental health: “This [teaching] has really helped give me a sense of structure and routine during lockdown.  I am learning however that too much screen time is not good for me, so I am trying to make sure I get outside in the fresh air at least once a day.

“Lockdown has given me the time and space to begin a regular daily mediation practice. I do this for 10 to 20 minutes each morning and it has been really helping reduce stress and anxiety.”

To join Hebe’s beginner yoga classes you can access more information on her website here

Or you can contact Hebe at hebereilly@gmail.com.

Instagram: @shanthiyogamcr | Facebook: Shanthi Yoga Manchester

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