The idea came to me in October, a few weeks after I moved back to Manchester. Even though I had lived in Manchester before, I was still shocked by the number of people sleeping rough. I hadn't been in Manchester over the winter before and wasn't much looking forward to the bitter North cold that was sure to come. I couldn't even imagine sleeping out on a summer night up here, let alone in the blistering chill that was already showing signs of arrival.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been saddened by homelessness and it's only natural that we feel helpless. But this year I decided that frankly, I had to do something. I could have donated money of course. However I wanted to do something which would gather my new local community together and spread awareness.
Free yoga was something I could offer which would hopefully grab some attention and get people interested. I got in touch with Shelter and told them I was planning a free Christmas yoga, giving me time to find a venue and plan the event. I knew Shelter would appreciate the extra help around Christmas time, which I can only imagine is a particularly hard time to be on the streets.
My first course of action was to find a suitable venue. It would be too cold outside (distressingly ironic), so I looked for a venue that wouldn't charge. It had to be big enough and fairly active on social media. I needed to spread the word and my own following was only just beginning to grow. I had recently started teaching Hatha Yoga at Withington Baths and Leisure in their recently refurbished studio 2. The original bath house, newly fitted with a heated floor makes it perfect for yoga and is still characterised by the tiled walls and green ceiling of the old baths. I love teaching there and knew it would be an excellent venue. Dennis, the manager kindly offered the venue free of charge and also threw in a one month membership for the raffle. The date was set: Saturday 17th December.
I had the venue. I had one raffle prize. I got to work on the social media campaign, made some posters and started thinking about more raffle prizes. Helen from Didsbury Life kindly helped me to promote the event through her own page and through Withington Baths. I contacted local businesses for prizes who were extremely generous: cut & finish from Macleod Bradley Hairdressers; reflexology session from Relaxing Reflexology; pelvic floor and core workout from WomenFit; handmade vegan soaps from Simply Sparrow and of course the membership at the baths. I threw in a couple of free yoga passes for my own classes and a few chocolate treats.
The event took a lot of planning but I loved every second of it! I adore writing yoga classes and this one was special. I wanted to cultivate gratitude and kindness as well as an understanding for other people in different situations. My intention was that this would remain in the hearts of those who came and spread into the community. I suppose that's also the reason I wanted to write a blog about the event.
We are all so different: different situations, different families, different stages of our oh so different lives. But when you think about it, we are so similar. We are all human beings, living in the same point in history, sharing infinitely more things than not. We have a human duty to protect each other and somehow we are failing. 124,000 children will be homeless this Christmas. They are our children. We can do something to help them.
In total we raised an amazing £250.20 (including a generous donation from my Granddad), but it doesn't stop there. It's so easy to donate on the website and every penny really makes a difference.
With all my heart I thank everyone who donated prizes; Joe who took photos and made Christmas brownies; Heather (Ray Ray Bakes) for her awesome gluten free-orange cake; Withington Baths; Didsbury Life; my granddad and everyone who came to the event and donated so generously. Finally a big thank you to Shelter for supporting me and for all the hard work they do.