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Kaliyoga Guest Spotlight: Jessica Funke

In this blog post, our Kaliyoga retreat guest spotlight is Jessica Funke. Jessica is a yoga teacher in London and a Trustee for the Teen Yoga Foundation. We chatted with her during her visit to Kaliyoga in Puglia earlier this month.

What brought you to Kaliyoga? And why did you chose this particular location?

Kaliyoga, as one of the original holistic yoga retreats in Europe, had been on my bucket list for years! What attracted me was the gorgeous retreats in authentic settings and peaceful surroundings. The yoga classes, the delicious plant-based food and the sense of connection between guests and staff. Having visited Andalucia last year, I decided to book Kaliyoga Italy on this occasion. I have been to Italy many times, but never this far south so I was curious to explore the Puglia and Martina Franca region.

Tell us about your yoga and how it is involved in your life?

Well, I’m a yoga teacher so yoga has become a central part of my life. I came to yoga 19 years ago when I was first pregnant. In 2016, after spending many years in a busy corporate role in the hospitality industry, I began searching for more balance in my hectic life and trained as a yoga teacher.

Whereas my yoga practises in the past revolved exclusively around the physical postures, today yoga is a conscious lifestyle, something I practise on and off the mat, taking it into my daily life for more balance and clarity – from parenting and relationships to food choices, caring for the environment and purchases I make. Even washing the dishes has become a joyful form of meditation!

My family roots are in health and wellbeing with my Swedish grandmother who founded a health retreat centre in the mid-1980s. As a mother of two teenage daughters, I am very conscious of the academic and social pressures young people are experiencing today.

I am deeply concerned about a world where the mental health of adolescents is deteriorating at an alarming rate. It became clear to me early on that I wanted to work with young people to help them manage stress and anxiety and become more well-rounded, kind and compassionate individuals. With the ability to lead happier, healthier lives.

This led me to further train with TeenYoga, the teaching arm of the Teen Yoga Foundation charity, to obtain a specialist qualification in teaching yoga and mindfulness to teenagers.

What is the charter of the Teen Yoga Foundation?

The Teen Yoga Foundation is the leading body working on yoga for teenagers in the UK. Founded in 2004 by Charlotta Martinus, our main mission is to promote the wellbeing of young people through the practice of yoga within schools but also in daily life. In particular, we address the issue of increasing mental health problems amongst teenagers. The Teen Yoga Foundation does this primarily by running yoga teacher training courses for yoga teachers and secondary teachers across the UK. A worldwide online training programme just launched earlier this month too.

In addition, the charity runs a number of events to raise awareness as well as research projects. In partnership with the Imperial College, Westminster University, University College London and also internationally through the European Commission to consolidate the research base on yoga for young people.

The core team have been working within the fields of mental health, education and young people since the 1990s. The foundation supports nearly 600 teen yoga teachers who teach 4,5000 young people a year. the main beneficiaries are young people, but all those who work with young people benefit from the teenagers increased sense of wellbeing and the ability to deal with stress.

Although the Foundation itself is relatively new (set up in 2015), it has been doing this work with unpaid volunteers for over ten years. The Foundation now wishes to expand and take this work to a new level, so do get in touch with us if you have ideas/resources to share.

Tell us more about the mental health benefits of yoga for teens

So, imagine if yoga and mindfulness were a normal part of the school day like PE or Maths, not only would it help prevent the onset of mental health conditions in the first place, in addition, it would teach young people how to better manage the ups and downs of life. They would be able to fully engage with their family, school, workplace and community and reach their full potential.

The great news is that around 30% of schools in the UK are already offering yoga as a therapeutic wellbeing initiative, either as part of the PE curriculum, lunch or after school clubs. In addition, yoga is much more in the public eye today as an extremely cost-efficient preventative healthcare measure (estimated costs for teaching yoga in schools: £150/year/student) in a day and age where the NHS and child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are in a serious crisis and failing young people.

Very exciting times ahead and I am thrilled to be a part of it and honoured to be working with the Teen Yoga Foundation to help make a difference in young people’s lives.

To learn more about Jessica: https://www.funkeyoga.co.uk

To learn more about the Teen Yoga Foundation: https://teenyoga.com

Get caught up: Kombucha Drink Recipe: Kaliyoga at Home


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