Entering the new year is a time of renewal and a point at which goals and ambitions are set for all that lies ahead. The exercises that many people focus on are fitness and mindfulness and there is a local project that brings these two together.
The First Stretch Challenge 2022 is a seven-week online challenge organized by local yoga teachers aimed at raising money for charity.
All money raised through the challenge is going to Havin a Laugh which provides activity vouchers to people undergoing mental health improvements.
Blythin Sweeney is a yoga instructor as well as the founder of Haven a Laugh and explains how the idea for the challenge came together.
“Some teachers came up to me and said they wanted to try online teaching and donate the proceeds to charity.
“It all developed over the course of December and as different ideas came to my desk, I saw a pattern and said there was something really cool here,” she said.
“We thought it would be great because people really need something to support them during January and February. These are cold, tough months and it can be quite tough for people.”
Blythin’s charity gives people with mental health issues access to life-enhancing activities.
“We provide vouchers to people undergoing mental health recovery to take anything from knitting classes to surf lessons and yoga. Anything that will enhance a person’s sense of self and well-being while they are going through their recovery journey,” she said.
The challenge is provided through the Enoise Yoga platform, which Blythin previously started with Lewis Waters and Kathy Murphy during lockdown, as a tool for the Sligo Yoga community to come together and offer their services online. was in
“We wanted to make sure that our regulars and others were taken care of. The platform is really cool, you can do a lot of different things, people have the option of signing up for bundles of multiple classes or just different classes,” she said.
“For the first few months of this year we have the money going directly to charity.”
Blythin says the popularity of yoga and mindfulness in Sligo has skyrocketed over the past several years and there is a great level of interest in these types of activities.
“I have been teaching yoga for over 10 years and when I started Sligo may have had two or three teachers, now I can’t count how many there are, there is a huge variety of teachers available and this is important because This makes it accessible to people and they can find the type of classes they want,” she said.
There are several different classes available as part of the challenge and they aim to provide options for all body types and skill levels.
“We have Yin Yoga with Carolan Ruche, it’s a deep release stitch exercise where you do three or four postures in a 45-minute session and it gives your body a chance to release tension. It’s quite a mindfulness exercise and Suitable for anyone, virtually any body can do it,” she said.
“We have a mixed mobility class on Wednesday and there are three teachers involved. We are looking for someone who is working from home at their desk all day giving them the tools they need to de-stress.”
Nicola McGarry, one of the instructors, offers a fitness fusion class and says that Blythin was her first yoga teacher before she trained to become one herself.
He is incredibly passionate about the power of fitness and explains how the fitness method he designed brings together many different forms of exercise.
“I never found a form of fitness that included all the methods I wanted in a routine so I devised a comprehensive method that also includes mindfulness and breathing exercises,” she said.
“It all comes from a place free from self-punishment and flagging. It’s about empowerment and liberation, finding freedom and listening to the body rather than following a rigid diet or exhaustive fitness routine. In yoga, you self- Build awareness and challenge yourself, then you start seeing that translation in every area of your life, it’s a life-changing practice.”
Blythin says that while Enoise and Challenge are Sligo-based, the online nature of the platform means people from all over the world can participate.
“I have friends from work in Finland and parts of Europe and I prepared them for an online session. None of them knew there would be others, it was like a surprise reunion.
“It can be a great way to connect with people you’ve lost touch with, it’s amazing how much you get a sense of connection when you’re doing something active online,” she said.
There are different price goals when participating in a project. It starts with a sponsor pack of €20 and then has more fundraising options for charity.
However, Blythin says they are mindful of being inclusive, especially for those struggling with mental health and that their services would benefit greatly.
“Everything we do through charity is available for free to people seeking to improve mental health. If a person is in mental health services they can contact us through their counselor and access it free of cost,” she said.
Blythin said that because they are hoping all of the funds raised will go towards charity, they are looking for businesses to help sponsor some of the much needed running costs for the platform, studio and equipment. .
“We would prefer not to use the money people give to pay for these things, so we are looking for businesses to help, there is a link available on the Enoise website where businesses can contribute to the operation of the event. ”
The first Stretch Challenge 2022 starts Tuesday, January 11, and participants have the option to attend live classes or follow recordings at a time according to their schedule.