Andrea Warman, co-author of the family yoga book Caring with Vitality – Yoga and Wellbeing for Foster Carers, Adopters and Their Families, explains how yoga can encourage families to enjoy spending relaxing time together, as well as help children to develop the life skills they need for a healthy future.
I’ve met foster carers and adopters all over the world, and I’m always fascinated by their motivation to do what they do – and especially keep going when most of us would give up.
Yet I’ve also become aware of the costs – not just to themselves but also to their families – and that we don’t always appreciate and value the people who have this special capacity to really care. I have seen too many tears, heard too many stories about multiple school runs, appointments and meetings. And I’ll always remember myself and my colleague handing out bath oil samples (donated by a high-end brand) to a group of foster carers we’d been training. We thought they’d be delighted – but some were handed back – ‘I won’t get to use this. Never have time for a bath any more. It’s just in and out of the shower and on to the next thing…’ That prompted us to start keeping a diary of all of the events and incidents that these carers experienced over the two months we ran our course. It was shocking reading – and I’d like to think it prompted that local authority to think more carefully about the everyday pressures of fostering, as well as their expectations of what can be achieved.
And so my interest in how we support this demanding role began. I found out about the groups, access to counselling and even family therapy. But I also met people who had had enough of talking, and who felt that focusing on the problems was bringing them down. Could there be a different way – a different approach which might involve doing rather than more thinking?
I’d practised yoga over the years and found it helped with some of my own challenges. But I never really got excited about it until I met Liz. Going on one of her retreats and sharing experiences made me feel that this was something that we could introduce to carers. And that Liz had the skills, understanding – with a unique spirit and sense of fun that could make it work.
We then faced the challenge of finding an agency prepared to take a risk. I expected I would be told that it was too airy-fairy, that carers (especially men) would never want to do it. But even I was surprised when I heard that introducing yoga classes to hard pressed carers was a ‘luxury’ that a particular senior manager would never consider funding…
We did eventually find Andrew Fox at the ISP Centre in Teynham, and he did agree to pilot our programme – with the enthusiasm of his staff and carers to try something new. So we did it. The carers loved it. Importantly they told us that it helped. Others in neighbouring Centres heard about what was going on, and wanted to try yoga too.
So now we’re at a special moment. The material we put together has been used to create a publication, and we will soon be launching our family yoga book. Celebrating with friends and colleagues the partnerships that have made this happen. And of course hoping to spread the word.
Meet Andrea and Liz at the official book launch for Caring with Vitality at Globe House Yoga, London on the 8th April from 6 to 8 pm. Click here to RSVP.
Dr Andrea Warman is a qualified children and families social worker who completed a MSc and PhD in Social Anthropology, and worked for a leading Adoption and Fostering charity. She led on projects involving carers and looked after children, and authored a number of publications on the role food plays in good fostering practice. More recently, she has focused on how we support foster carers and adopters, and with Liz Lark has piloted the use of yoga, meditation and related approaches.
Liz Lark is an experienced yoga teacher, author, artist and retreat leader. Her yoga clients have included high-profile actors, dancers and the Monteverdi Choir led by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. She has authored eight books, including one for children, and has made a DVD entitled, Yogalibre: A Creative Practice of Hatha Yoga (2008). She is also a Board member for www.yogacampus.com, a London-based teacher training course.