Addressing social isolation with community yoga
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Addressing social isolation with community yoga

Stories/302 , Issues/Mental Health , Issues/Healthcare
Melbourne VIC, Australia
4th May 2018
Addressing social isolation with community yoga
Lovesweats addresses social isolation through free yoga classes for vulnerable populations.

When Steph Scott moved to Sydney over four years ago, she took up yoga at a studio near her home. She loved the physical activity but also found that it helped center her and improve her mental state. She loved it so much that she began a yoga teacher training program.

At the same time, she had started volunteering for the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross, an organisation that provides programming and services for the city’s homeless. “That’s when I started thinking, ‘How can I get more involved’,” she said. Once she finished her yoga teacher training, she suggested running community classes with the Wayside visitors.

And so the seed for Lovesweats was planted.

That was at the end of 2015, and over the past two years, Steph has refined and focused the mission of Lovesweats. Lovesweats addresses social isolation through free yoga classes for vulnerable populations by partnering with community groups and paid community yoga sessions that raise funds for not-for-profit organisations.

Doing both services and fundraising is important to Steph in order to extend the impact of the organisation. Lovesweats partners with other organisations working in the mental health and social isolation space, including those providing mental health surf therapy, support services for the homeless, research support for suicide prevention and school programs removing the stigma around mental illness.

Lovesweats has developed strong relationships with organisations, including Wayside Chapel, Vinnies and Rough Threads, and delivers yoga programs tailored to their specific needs. “The community programs are really about making a few people’s lives better,” Steph says.

So many of the community program participants are new to yoga—Steph estimates up to 99 percent are trying yoga for the first time. These classes don’t follow the same pattern as a traditional yoga class. The class starts with a focus on mental health and then moves into physical health. “There’s something different in those classes,” she says. “There’s a vulnerability.”

The other side to Steph’s approach is the Sweat for the Good Stuff program, which offers paid yoga sessions to raise money for other organisations, including some of those where Lovesweats offers yoga classes. So far, Sweat for the Good stuff has hosted more than 30 classes across Sydney, including at Carriageworks and the Greens North Sydney.

One of the charities supported through this program is the Waves of Wellness Foundation, which offers surf therapy as a way for those struggling with mental health to find a healthy outlet. “The LoveSweats partnership has supported our organisation through contributing funds, which allows us to keep bringing surf therapy programs to those who need it most,” says Stacey Woollams, the Marketing Manager of the Waves of Wellness Foundation.

One of the goals for 2018 is to offer supplementary services with the yoga classes, including things like meditation and social gatherings. Steph tailors each class specifically for the unique venue in which its being held—which are donated to the organisation. “The idea is that we were using spaces that weren’t being used at the time,” she says.

The next Sweat for the Good Stuff session for 2018 will be on May 22 at The Grounds garden. The session includes a one-hour yoga class, a meditation session and freshly squeezed juice afterwards.

As Steph continues to refine Lovesweats’ offerings, she wants to make sure the organisation can stand on its own two feet. “My ultimate goal would be to be able to run an organisation that would give back in many ways but still be financially viable,” she says.

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