Spotlight On Our Newest Franchise: YogaBugs Birmingham & Solihull

We are delighted to welcome Michelle Best back to the YogaBugs family! Previously a Regional Manager, Michelle took time out to have her son, Dylan, and has just returned to take on her own franchise. Speaking about her reasons for re-joining the YogaBugs team, Michelle said:

“Originally I trained as a nursery nurse with Asquith Nurseries. I then went on to do degree in Early Childhood Studies at Wolverhampton University. Working as an early years teacher in Hertfordshire I was shocked to find pre-school children becoming obese and suffering from poor health, bad diet, asthma and allergies. Moving back to Birmingham in 2006, I went to work for a David LLoyd Fitness Club. I found that very few families encouraged their young children to exercise so when the opportunity came to work with YogaBugs, I saw that as my chance to make a change.

Whilst working as a Regional Manager for YogaBug, I saw at first hand the impact yoga classes were having on children in local schools. I now understand the importance of keeping flexible and mobile, and how an exercise such as yoga helps children to calm and focus. Through YogaBugs, I strongly believe we are helping children have a happier and healthier lifestyle.

I decided to buy my own franchise so that I could work around Dylan. Being a franchisee allows me the freedom to manage my own time. I now have a perfect work-life balance. I teach classes one day a week and have fantastic teachers who teach for me the other days.”

Michelle has always been interested in keeping fit and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When she was 13, she was diagnosed with scoliosis (which causes curvature of the spine). Michelle was advised not to exercise so that she didn’t cause any further pain and damage. Speaking about her experience, Michelle said:

“Now we know that this was the wrong advice. Gentle exercise and yoga especially, can aid injury recovery and is an excellent complement to other forms of sport. My condition was very painful growing up, but I loved sport so started to swim and run regularly. I went on to run for my school in the county school races, and even managed to complete the Great North Run. One day I would like to run the London Marathon….maybe the YogaBug man could run alongside me!

Michelle is now holding weekly classes at 2 local primary schools and has 5 private classes starting shortly.  MiniBugs and MightyBugs start at the Layca Centre, Shirley on Monday, 10th October whilst MIniBugs, MightyBugs and MegaBugs classes start at Rowheath Pavilion, Bournville on Friday, 7th November. You’ll find her classes at http://www.yogabugs.com/find_class.php?page_name=find.

Michelle is looking to recruit part time teachers. So if you love drama and story-telling, want to make a positive impact on local family life and practice yoga, do get in contact.

If you live in or around the Birmingham and Solihull areas, you can connect with Michelle via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=hp#!/group.php?gid=12515566857.

YogaBugs Responds To Telegraph Article – Childhood Being Eroded By Modern Life

Did you see the feature in Saturday’s Telegraph reporting on a letter from a powerful lobby of more than 200 experts? In it, they warn that childhood is being eroded by a relentless diet of advertising, addictive computer games, test-driven education and poor childcare. Coinciding with the publication of a book, Too Much, Too Soon?, featuring 23 essays on early learning and the erosion of childhood, the experts urge the Government to address a culture of “too much, too soon.”

One essay by Sally Goddard Blythe, Director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, concluded that up to half of children were not ready for school at the age of five because of their “sedentary lifestyles”. They found it difficult to grip pencils properly, sit still, stand up straight and even catch a ball after failing to develop key physical and communication skills at a young age.

The authors of the letter, a group of academics, teachers, authors and charity leaders, argue that children’s wellbeing and mental health is being undermined by the pressures of modern life. These comments come five years after many of the same experts sent a similar letter to the Telegraph, criticising politicians and the public for failing to allow children to develop properly at a young age. This led to a debate on the state of childhood in Britain and coincided with the publication of Labour’s Children’s Plan - a policy document covering all aspects of young people’s lives.

The group is concerned that the “erosion of childhood in Britain has continued apace since 2006.” Meanwhile a UN report, published last week, accused British parents of trapping children in a cycle of “compulsive consumerism” by showering them with toys and designer labels instead of spending quality time with them. The group also criticises the education system, saying that five year-olds should be given a play-based curriculum in the first full year of school instead of formal lessons. The comments will be seen as a criticism of Coalition plans to subject all children to a reading test at the end of their first year in school.

You’ll have seen from our earlier blog posts that we have explained the critical links between the development of motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination and the development of literacy skills. In our classes at nurseries and primary schools, we see for ourselves only too clearly how the life of the modern child has become stressful, competitive and challenging. That’s why we’re absolutely committed and passionate about changing children’s lives so that they have the time to indulge in their imaginations and explore their creativity. Space to be creative is so important in this modern world where children have such little time to play. 

One of the very best things we can do for our children’s early literacy development is to simply let them play. Not only is play an important part of childhood, but we are actually helping them to build skills that are key to learning to read and write. Hand-eye coordination is a necessary skill for written language and the best way to help children develop this is to let them play with toys and activities that involve looking at, using, and discriminating a number of elements.

Furthermore in order to reach age appropriate targets in the development of left and right brain activity, children need to practice mid-line activities such as crawling, marching and balancing. For some children, developing these skills is particularly challenging so making this fun is key. Activities that combine story-telling and magical adventures with physical activities such as yoga are a great way of developing imaginations whilst practising essential developmental motor skills.

We’ve written to The Telegraph adding our support to this letter. Meanwhile thank you to this group of experts for highlighting these issues so powerfully.

The Lady Who Turned Down The Dragons!

Anyone who watches Dragons’ Den will know it’s hard enough to secure investment offers from the Dragons. So it was all the more surprising that YogaBugs founder, Nell Lindsell, turned three offers down! You can catch up with the latest chapter in the YogaBugs adventure on Wednesday evening’s BBC2 programme, ‘Dragons’ Den: How To Win In The Den.’ 

You only have to look at Nell’s background to understand how her determination and energy, coupled with her great love of yoga, drives her forward. She does all this, in common with many women, by juggling her busy working life with being a mother – to a family of four children. Nell first discovered yoga when she went to India on what she describes as ’walkabout.’ As a child Nell spent countless hours doing gymnastics. She found that yoga embodied the flexibility and creativity of gymnastics, but with a great deal more safety and creativity.

Originally Nell studied Sivananda Yoga and deepened her practice by studying with Iyengar, Ashtanga and Jivamukti teachers both in the UK as well as the States. Her teachers have included Shiva Rea, David Swenson, David Life and Baron Baptiste. Nell went on to train as a yoga teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga and to run a large complementary health and yoga centre in South West London. It was there that she developed and refined her concept of yoga for children – YogaBugs and Yoga’d Up – having realised that children today have far fewer opportunities to stretch their imagination as well as their bodies compared to previous generations.

If Nell was to achieve her dream of bringing yoga to children in nurseries and schools across the UK, she realised that YogaBugs would require significant further investment. That’s when she first entered the Den, and as a result YogaBugs started to become a recognised  name. Nell and her business partner, Lara Goodbody, asked for a £200,000 investment in exchange for a 15% equity stake of their business. They secured – and to the Dragons’ amazement – turned down two offers of investment from Richard Farleigh and Theo Paphitis! After the programme, Peter Jones offered to buy the business for £1.5milion. Nell and Lara turned Peter down too.

This led to Nell producing a series of yoga adventures for GMTV and a DVD called Yoga Bugs Vol.1 – Ocean And Jungle Yoga Stories. She then wrote The One Bug Your Kids Should Catch and contributed to ‘The Exercise Bible’ by Joanna Hall as well as ’Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth’ by Jenny Smith. Nell is currently the Yoga Consultant to RDF Media on their new and successful CBeebies’ programme Waybuloo which is transmitted worldwide to Australia, Poland, South Africa and Canada and around 75 other countries now.

As founder of YogaBugs, Nell’s role has involved setting up and implementing our franchise programme and international trademarking. As a result, there are currently around 40,000 children attending classes each week in nurseries and schools across the UK.  The company recently sold its first Master Franchise for YogaBugs Australia and Nell flew down under to deliver training there in 2010.

Nell has now taught yoga for 20 years. Her extraordinary achievements in yoga result from that first walkabout in India!

Yoga Books and Activities For The End Of A School Day

The hurly burley surrounding the start of the new school year can leave parents and kids feeling stressed and over-whelmed. As well as improving flexibility, strength, and body awareness, yoga can help to calm kids down. In addition to our own YogaBugs DVD and book, there are a number of others that you can use at home with your kids. Here are just a handful of our favorites.

For toddlers, try out the Little Yoga series by Rebecca Whitford and Martina Selway. Little Yoga: A Toddler’s First Book of Yoga and Sleepy Little Yoga: A Toddler’s Sleepy Book of Yogaboth contain fun, colourful pictures which encourage kids to make simple yoga shapes with their bodies.  Sleepy Little Yoga makes a great bedtime book. At the back of the book, you’ll find a note for supervising adults as well as an explanation about how to get into the postures.

We’re particularly fond of Babar’s Yoga For Elephants. Written by Babar, the book explains how  he and Celeste keep fit doing yoga on their many travels. Through simple instructions and step-by-step illustrations, Babar’s Yoga For Elephants presents 15 postures and stretches as well as helpful breathing exercises. The book also provides particularly useful advice on what you should do with your trunk while in poses, a problem never addressed in yoga books for humans.

Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire is a great book offering a summary of Buddhism and child friendly meditation techniques. The stories are fables with a moral at the end, which although Buddist in origin, would be appeal to most beliefs. The author, Dharmachari Nagaraja, regularly presented BBC Radio 2′s Pause for Thought with Terry Wogan.  He is currently involved with the Glasgow Buddhist Centre where he works as a psychotherapist, having run the Covent Garden Meditation Centre in London..

For bigger kids, Bear Cub Books has a collection of titles about Hindu folklore which  include How Ganesh Got His Elephant Head, Hanuman’s Journey to the Medicine Mountain, and  How Pavarti Won The Heart of Shiva. The author, Vatsala Sperling, draws on stories told to her by her mother when she was a young girl in India, bringing the myths of Parvati and Shiva, Ganesh and Hanuman to life. The illustrations are beautiful.

Yoga Pretzels is a  great way for parents and kids to have fun together. Each card is colour coded to indicate the type of activity – breathing, meditating, stretching, partner positions etc. One side of the card gives a colourful illustration of the pose/ activity, whilst the other side offers step by step instructions. Teachers and parents who have seen me using them have frequently asked where they can buy them. Kids can choose the cards themselves and create their own sessions.

We’d love to hear about your favourite yoga books and activities for children! Post your comments here – or on our Facebook page.

What Are You Doing To Make Peace On 21 September?

Link

As Ahimsa, or non-violence, is one of the five of the five ethical principles (or yama) of yoga, we thought it would be particularly fitting to write a blog post about International Peace Day and specifically the work of Peace One Day. Ahimsa is the foundation upon which all of yogic life is based and honours all life, however great or small. Ahimsa asks us to consider the consequences of our actions, both upon ourselves as well as the world around us. Mahatma Gandhi taught that non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.

The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) provides an opportunity for individuals, organisations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. It was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. The first Peace Day was celebrated in September 1982. However it was not until 7th September 2001 that the United Nations passed a further resolution declaring 21 September the International Day of Peace with the additional aim of declaring a global ceasefire and doing so on a fixed day of the year. This followed a concerted campaign by the charity Peace One Day. See http://www.peaceoneday.org/en/welcome.

Peace One Day was founded in September 1999 following a determined campaign by British documentary filmmaker and actor, Jeremy Gilley. His charity promotes the idea that one day each year is free of conflict and war, one day of a global truce regardless of all kinds of conflict. Gilley explains what motivated him in this inspiring video – http://www.peaceoneday.org/en/action/from-jeremy.

International Day of Peace is also a Day of Ceasefire – personal or political. It’s an opportunity to make peace in our own relationships as well as impact the larger conflicts of our time. Imagine what a whole Day of Ceasefire would mean to humankind? By acknowledging a unified day without violence, a Global Ceasefire can provide hope for citizens who have to endure war and conflict. For example in 2007, Jeremy Gilley and Peace One Day Ambassador, Jude Law, travelled to Afghanistan to help develop and document preparations for life-saving activities across the country for Peace Day. As a result of this work, Peace Day agreements by all parties to conflict in the region have resulted in the immunisation against polio of 4.5 million children in areas, previously unreachable or hard to reach due to conflict.

Anyone, anywhere, can celebrate Peace Day. This can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, or setting ahimsa as an intention in your yoga practice. It may involve getting your co-workers, organisation, community or government engaged in a large event. The impact if millions of people in all parts of the world coming together for one day of peace is immense. What is important is to make a contribution, whatever the size.

For Peace Day 2012, Peace One Day is calling for – and working towards – a day of ceasefire and non-violence – a Global Truce. The charity hopes that this will lead to the largest reduction in global violence in recorded history, both domestically and internationally. If you are interested in finding out more about the Global Truce 2012, do have a look at the website and sign up here at http://www.peaceoneday.org/en/welcome.

Since its inception, Peace Day has grown to include millions of people in all parts of the world; and each year events are organized to commemorate and celebrate this day. Events range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums where hundreds of thousands of people participate. This year Peace One Day is hosting a concert at London’s O2 Arena and their website has lots of ideas on how to get involved. You can join the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/peaceoneday?sk=app_248747331811989.

Help YogaBugs Support The National Literacy Trust: Dragonese Day

Here at YogaBugs Mission Control, we’re big supporters of the National Literacy Trust and its work to transform the lives of those who struggle with literacy. As we’re no strangers to the Dragons Den ourselves, we were delighted to learn that Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train Your Dragon, recently launched a Dragonese Day for primary schools on the 6 October.

Dragonese Day is the perfect opportunity for primary school children to find out about the lives of Vikings, learn to speak Dragonese and read the hilarious How to Train Your Dragon books. Cressida Cowell has produced a comprehensive pack for schools which contains lots of ideas to celebrate Dragonese Day whilst raising funds for the National Literacy Trust. The pack can be found at http://www.howtotrainyourdragonbooks.com/funstuff/dragoneseday.

The downloadable teacher’s pack has a range of activities suitable for cross-curricular teaching in History, Geography, Drama, Art and Literacy for children between the ages of 5 and 11. There are also supplementary materials, including interactive videos, worksheets and a guide to speaking Dragonese.

Primary schools also have the opportunity to win a school event with Cressida Cowell. As part of the event, Cressida will teach everyone how to speak Dragonese, answer questions and give out signed copies of How to Train Your Dragon. Ten runners-up will receive a full set of How to Train YourDragon books for their school library. To win a school event, all you have to do to enter is to send in photos and say how you celebrated Dragonese Day in your school! The best photos will be displayed on www.howtotrainyourdragonbooks.com/dragoneseday. The closing date is 31 December 2011. (Dragonese Day does not have to be on 6 October).

Have you seen our recent blog post setting out details for our Art Competition? For kids in the Yoga’d Up category, we’d like you to take inspiration from the theme of dragons, drawing on the “How To Train Your Dragon” series of books by Cressida Cowell. For details, see http://www.yogabugs.com/blog/?p=77.

Impact & Change In A Yorkshire School: Rhys’ Story

Balancing on one leg has always been difficult for Rhys Shields as he suffers from a very rare metabolic disorder – hypophosphatasia. Diagnosed at 13 months, his family learnt that this condition causes a mineral deficiency which leaves his bones weak and prone to trembling. The disease also makes joints hyper-bendy. A bump or a fall can mean a trip to the local hospital. As a result, Rhys hasn’t been able to play games with other children, ride a bike or bounce on a trampoline.

Physiotherapy helped to strengthen Rhys’ muscles, but it was the 10 week Impact & Change course he took at Ryecroft Primary School in Bradford which really made a difference. Rhys can now balance effortlessly on one leg for 30 seconds; just a few months earlier, this had not been possible. Tests carried out after the YogaBugs course showed a dramatic improvement – Rhys’ leg strength and balance improved by 70% during the period he took up yoga!

Whilst Rhys found his physiotherapy sessions a bit of a chore, he loved the yoga classes as he got to go on fun adventures – an intergalactic space mission to rescue a lost astronaut, deep sea adventures and jungle safaris. Rhys hates being left out so he loved being able to do an activity alongside his classmates.

Jayne Clarke, Head Teacher at Ryecroft Primary School used a government grant to fund the sessions. She had previously found that yoga had helped a child with cerebral palsy. Jayne said, “Rhys hates being left out. He was the driving force for starting yoga at the school but all the children benefited in some way. This has included improving concentration during lessons and helping to build self-confidence. They love the story telling.”

As a result of our work in primary schools, we created the Impact and Change Programme last year. This programme is aimed at improving children’s emotional, physical and social development whilst providing schools with tangible results and benefits. It consists of ten weekly YogaBugs classes during which we deliver a Key Stage One or Early Years key text such as “Giraffes Can’t Dance.” We assess the children’s social, physical and behaviour skills both before and after the course. At the end of the course we send the school a full report highlighting the positive changes that have resulted from the programme. YogaBugs teachers also deliver a short programme to the class teacher, giving them the skills to use breathing and relaxation techniques with children on a daily basis. This helps to reinforce the weekly YogaBugs classes, whilst aiding concentration and focus. For further information, see http://www.yogabugs.com/education_impact.php?page_name=education

Rhys’ story featured in the Daily Express in the summer, and the lovely photograph was taken by Roger Moody. For more information about YogaBugs classes in Yorkshire, contact Rachel Frazer at yorkshire@yogabugs.com.

http://www.express.co.uk/features/view/252533/Why-yoga-is-now-top-of-the-classWhy-yoga-is-now-top-of-the-class

http://www.rogervmoody.co.uk/blog/yoga-photography-at-ryecroft-primary-school/

Lift Off For New YogaBugs Pre-School Programmes

Until recently, we offered the same programme of classes to all children aged from 2.5 to 7 years of age. However as more and more parents have asked if their younger children can come to our classes, we realised that we need to adapt our approach and re-design our classes. That’s why we’ve come up with three new programmes – MiniBugs, MightyBugs and MegaBugs – to meet the concentration levels and social needs of children from walking age to 2 years, from 2 to 3.5 years, 3.5 to 5 years and 5 to 7 years. Full details about how you can book a class are on this website.

Our MiniBugs classes focus on developing basic listening skills through story-telling and developing co-ordination through specially designed postures, inspired by yoga. Nursery rhymes and actions songs are woven into the class to keep the children’s attention and ensure they have a magical and fun experience! The class is broken up into mini-size segments, finishing off with a short relaxation period. Parents and carers are welcomed into the class to share quality time with their child and observe the start of their biggest adventure yet, independence.

We’ve introduced more structure into our MightyBugs classes in order to harness the children’s creativity and imagination. The story is extended and the nursery rhymes and songs are incorporated into the adventure. As children can concentrate for longer, they’ll be able to follow a longer adventure format. Their self-confidence will begin to increase as they are encouraged to be vocal and interact with one another. They’ll start to recognise their own abilities through specially designed postures to help their co-ordination and balance. In addition, our action songs and rhymes contribute to their language development.

By the time they’re 3.5, children are ready to experience a full-on YogaBugs adventure! At this age, they’ll have the confidence and ability to go it alone. Our MegaBugs classes begin to stretch the child’s physical ability by introducing more yoga postures. This has the benefit of improving balance, flexibility and co-ordination. We introduce fun games to add variety to classes and encourage children to work together.

Enter Our Art Competition!

To launch our new website and programme of classes, we’re asking all YogaBugs to send in an A4 sized picture or collage of a favourite YogaBugs adventure. The winning entrant in each age range – MiniBugs (walking age to 2 years) MegaBugs (2 to 3.5 years), MightyBugs (3.5 to 5 years and 5 to 7 years) and Yoga’d Up (8 to 12 years) will win a selection of books. Winning pictures or collages will feature on our website.

For kids in the Yoga’d Up category, we’d like you to take inspiration from the theme of dragons, drawing on the “How To Train Your Dragon” series of books by Cressida Cowell. Cressida Cowell recently launched Dragonese Day (6 October) to raise awareness and funds on behalf of the National Literacy Trust. As we’re going to be back in the Dragons Den next month, we thought this would be rather apt! For more information about Dragonese Day, see: http://www.howtotrainyourdragonbooks.com/funstuff/dragoneseday/.

The competition is also open to classes in nurseries, children’s centres and primary schools. In this category, the entry should be a whole class entry of an A2 sized picture or collage showing a favourite YogaBugs adventure. The winning class in each category will receive a £25 book voucher to spend on the books for the class. Winning pictures or collages will feature on our website.

Please be sure to put your name, age, email and postal address on the back of your picture or collage. Where we have an email address, we will send you one of our YogaBugs stories. (Unfortunately we won’t be able to return your pictures).  Entries should be received at YogaBugs Mission Control by Friday, 7 October and be posted to:

Art Competition,

YogaBugs Mission Control,

Centre Court,

1301 Stratford Road,

Birmingham B28 9HH

YogaBugs Mission Control Launches New Classes, Website and Blog!

We’ve had so many requests for children’s yoga classes that we’ve put together a new programme of classes to make yoga accessible to children of walking age through to 12 years of age. To help to launch this programme, we’ve designed a brand new website to include a class booking system as well as this blog.

Using dynamic storytelling, acted out through safe yoga postures, YogaBugs takes children on imaginary adventures such as safari expeditions to the African jungle, intergalactic space missions and undersea adventures. Classes are a complete form of physical exercise in a safe and non-competitive environment, taking place in private venues as well as schools, nurseries and children’s centres.  Because of this, they can be ideal for children with special educational needs or a physical disability.

As more and more people asked us how younger children can get the yoga bug, we decided to re-design our classes to meet the different learning needs of pre-school children. These three new programmes – MiniBugs, MightyBugs and MegaBugs – are especially designed meet the concentration levels and social needs of children from walking age to 7 years. Meanwhile our Yoga’d classes are structured to be physically challenging, mentally stimulating and entertaining. Yoga’d up classes offer a variety of postures, partner poses as well as fun games. As with our YogaBugs classes, children end the class with relaxation and visualisation techniques. The combination of all these ingredients help and support them through a time of pre-teen change and beyond to adolescence.

To complement this new programme of classes, we’ve launched a new website, which is underpinned by an electronic class booking system – http://www.yogabugs.com. This is to make it easy for you to find out about and sign up to classes. If there aren’t already classes in your area, please do request one via the website and we’ll let you know as soon as they’re in your area. You can also download YogaBugs activities, stories featuring favourite YogaBugs adventures as well as colouring-in sheets. You’ll find these in the “Fun Zone” at http://www.yogabugs.com/funzone.php?page_details=funzone&page_name=funzone. Keeping checking back as we’re continually updating them.

This new blog includes all the latest news as well as useful tips for parents, nurseries, schools and children’s centres, nurseries, schools and children’s centres to use with their children. The aim of the blog is to promote children’s yoga to millions of people via the web as well as to act as a gateway to a range of educational resources and inspiring ideas.

To keep up to date with the latest news, subscribe to our newsletter at http://www.yogabugs.com/index.php?page_name=home. We’d love to hear from you. Either post your comments below or check out our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/login/roadblock.php?target_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroup.php%3Fgid%3D124151157616940#!/YogaBugs.