The Yoga for Health and Education Trust (YHET) is a charity founded in 2006 following the closure of the Yoga for Health Foundation at Ickwell Bury in Bedfordshire.
The Foundation at Ickwell Bury ran numerous general and remedial training courses for yoga teachers, as well as both general and remedial events, the latter catering variously for MS, ME/CFS, heal your heart, Parkinson’s, breathing disorders, cancer, osteoperosis and arthritis.
Ickwell was also a retreat where people could stay for any length of time and participate in as much or as little as they felt they needed. It ran weekend courses on many aspects and styles of yoga and related subjects such as ayurveda, Alexander technique, counselling and healing. It also provided regular weekly general and remedial classes for the local community.
An annual summer yoga festival featured a refreshing variety of teachers deliberately drawn from a wide range of yoga traditions. The Foundation had representatives in 22 countries worldwide and a particularly close link with Australia. Teachers often came as guests initially and then stayed on. The founder Howard Kent believed that when a teacher was needed the universe would provide and so it proved.
YHET was set up by a small dedicated group who believed that the work of the Foundation at Ickwell Bury was too important to be lost and who wanted to continue promoting yoga in the Ickwell Bury tradition of “Yoga for All”. Starting completely from scratch, but with plenty of goodwill and support, YHET now runs a regular series of events.
People often talk about yoga being inclusive but at YHET events you see this in action where, as well as providing general yoga sessions, there will always be an alternative gentle/remedial/therapeutic session for those for whom a general yoga class may not be appropriate. As far as we know YHET is the only yoga organisation that does this. If initially this juxtaposition seems surprising, it is worth mentioning that one of the many Ickwell Bury tenets still promoted by YHET is the belief that “All yoga is remedial”.
This commitment to inclusiveness is also found at the heart of YHET where, with a large proportion of YHET trustees and staff themselves having significant health issues, consideration for and accommodation of those with health issues remains to the fore. So, for example, as well as running residential weekends, YHET also run longer remedial residential events as these can better suit those with significant health issues who can find travelling tiring.
Visitors to Ickwell Bury invariably commented on the beautiful setting, and the lovely grounds and settings. It also sits on the convergence of ley lines which further enhanced the sense of a special place with unique properties. It was initially a concern to YHET that we were unlikely to find anywhere to match the atmosphere of the Bury. However, eventually YHET found and started to use the Annex to the Convent at Domus Mariae at Woodford Bridge in Essex, and over time people have noted some striking similarities – both provide an oasis of peace, have lovely grounds and gardens, and are unique in their own special and sometimes slightly quirky ways.
As with any journey to a place worth getting to, it has not always been easy – along the way we have variously faced the sudden and completely unexpected death of the founder of YHET, been swept up early on in an overambitious enthusiasm to recreate Ickwell Bury elsewhere in bricks and mortar and subsequently been embroiled in the labyrinth-like procedures and politics of the English university system whilst trying to develop the first UK yoga teaching course at Foundation Degree level, before spending cuts and student number caps in the current economic climate put a stop to that.
However, continued belief in and commitment to the value of YHET’s work and its six core values – Nurturing, Inclusive, Embracing, Professional, Inspiring, Authentic – has seen us through all this and more. The Vishuddi (throat) chakra symbol at the heart of the YHET logo also continues to remind us of the need to continue to promote the YHET message and values to the outside world.
YHET organises both residential events and residential Continuing Professional Development events for yoga teachers and has delivered well-received CPD sessions on the menopause, managing stress, lower back problems and on the breath which have been presented by a variety of well-respected teachers.
YHET is entirely run by volunteers and is most fortunate in the number of people who have given up their time to become trustees and staff or to assist in so many ways, as well as to raise funds for YHET. Donations from members and supporters continue to provide a not insignificant proportion of YHET income – a reassuring sign of the affection in which the charity is held and of the value placed on its work.
YHET also offers discounted insurance for its teacher members, whether they trained with YHET or not. This can also cost-effectively cover a wide range of complementary therapies as well as yoga teaching. YHET members receive a quarterly magazine and are entitled to discounts on YHET events. Membership fees are discounted for those with health issues as well as those of pensionable age.