Free to Access & Subsidised Community Programmes
Every week in Preston our community programme delivers:
- 4 free yoga classes
- 3 free to access mindful craft sessions
- 2 subsidised dance and yoga classes
- Reaching 120-170 people each week with these free and subsidised sessions
National Lottery Community Fund
We are delighted to have been awarded funding for 3 years to expand our work in the city. Thanks to this programme we will be delivering an additional 200 free to access sessions across the city each year, taking our total free sessions in 2023 to almost 500!
Thank you to all of you who buy Lottery tickets and who come to classes at Mandala for making this possible. Read more about this programme here.
Through our partnership with ProjectFit an additional 4 subsidised movement classes are offered at Mandala and our partnership with Phoenix Rising enables to deliver free arts and nature sessions in Kirkham.
We have built a reputation amongst community partners for high quality, trauma-aware and highly specialist yoga and accessible dance sessions and as a result we are asked by community partners to deliver more, but we are constrained by resources. We are working towards overcoming this obstacle with funding applications to help us to manage programmes and to pay facilitators to deliver more sessions across the city, integrate our sessions more with other services in the city and to bring together all the wonderful people we work with across the city at social events so that we can build stronger communities.
Our specialist teachers are trusted by community partners to work with street sex workers, homeless people, people experiencing cognitive and physical challenges as well as people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. We work closely with The Foxton Centre, MS Society, Sahara in Preston and Plungington Community Centre; our person-centred approach enables us to be inclusive of those who are experiencing significant challenges.
We deliver a wide range of community programmes that are free to access or subsidised. Our evening paid classes help us to deliver these sessions by covering costs of equipment as well as insurance, training and our studio costs and time costs. For example without evening Aerial classes we would not be able to deliver Aerial for those who benefit from the support of the hammock, without Barre classes we would not be able to deliver our MS classes which uses this equipment, without our Drum Circles we would not have the drums for our young people sessions, there are many more examples.
Our community creative wellbeing programmes empower people to improve physical and mental wellbeing through movement, mindful crafting, drumming, meditation and community. We help people to build confidence, learn about ways to improve physical and mental wellbeing and we provide opportunities and the atmosphere to make friends.
We are inclusive and trauma aware, we are trained in suicide awareness and prevention.
In 2020 our volunteers created and held the city's first conference focused on exploring the role of yoga & meditation in population health and we continue to work closely with a wide range of community partners to support the health and wellbeing of the wonderful people of Preston. We are co-lead on the Phoenix Rising social prescribing project and are Co-I on AHRC projects exploring aspects of social prescribing.
Our community members tell us that we transform lives and you can see some of the videos and testimonials about those transformations.
Class Donation Bank
We have a Class Bank into which unused/cancelled classes can be donated instead of receiving a refund. This Class Bank enables people who are facing financial challenges to access our evening classes and for us to offer free to access programmes to specific community groups facing particular challenges such as domestic violence, mental health challenges, social isolation and particular physical health challenges. Many of our studio members choose to donate missed/cancelled classes to this bank instead of receiving a refund and we are very grateful for that - yoga rippling out into our community.
Mandala is a not for profit, our purpose is to be a force for good in our community and to empower others to also be a force for good. Each week we welcome over 100 people into our studio classes in the heart of Preston and we work with over 100 people at community centres across the city each week as well as with young people in schools.
We are a community wellbeing hub and as well as yoga we deliver drumming, craft, art and (through our partnership with Phoenix Rising) nature throughout Preston. We donate some of our space for the use of a food bank. We also offer the building at subsidised rates to other not for profits to benefit the community.
In 2020 we delivered a Yoga for Anxiety programme funded by the National Lottery and evaluated as the NHS Recovery College as highly effective.
During the lockdowns we delivered an online programme of 5 classes per week. Participants fedback that "It's a lifeline and has literally kept me sane" and "It gave me something to look forward to every day and I'm going to take yoga up when we get out of lockdown" as well as "It was the one thing that was stable for my daughter during lockdown and really supported her mental health"
In 2021 we were funded by Active Lancashire and Lancashire Libraries to support Covid recovery through yoga and Groove accessible dance fitness. We were co-lead on the successful Phoenix Rising social prescribing project funded by the Arts Council and NASP. We worked with communities under-represented in physical exercise including those in addiction recovery, women over 65 and Asian women.
In 2022 we are focusing on our FAM Healthier Together work funded by Big Local and our Gentle Chair Exercise programme funded by Preston City Council, see below for details.
Community Health - Current Programmes
Community Drum Circles
We deliver free to access Community Drum Circles throughout the city, widening access to music-making, celebrating cultural diversity and enabling mixing across generations and ethnicities. We run these Drum Circles at Mandala, in community centres, schools and in parks.
If you would like us to bring a Drum Circle to your group please get in touch.
Fishwick & St Matthews - FAM Healthier Together
We are delighted to be delivering a 6month programme in the Fishwick & St Matthews wards of the city. We are bringing community together, sharing cultures and celebrating cultural diversity through arts & crafts, movement and music making.
Over the 6 months we are delivering 300 fully accessible free to access sessions that meet the health and wellbeing needs of the community. The programme is available at community hubs and in schools. We are working with partners Sahara, Let's Grow Preston, Strive2Thrive and Preston Community Hub to amplify the effect of each of the strands of the programme.
Referral is through Social Prescribers, housing associations, other community organisations and schools.
I feel amazing, lighter and happier
I was able to stand all the way through my church service for the first time in years because Emma gave me back my muscles memory in my back. Linda
I love that the sessions are so multicultural and we are making friends from different cultures. I'm excited about getting fitter and learning the drums.
I'm so proud of myself for doing this. My fitness is already improving and I can do things I never I could.
Preston Women Well Together
Women aged 45 to 91 attend this free weekly class
Every week over 30 women join together to get moving and to socialise at these sessions.
The Preston Well Together programme sees us working with local women to support them on their journey to better physical & mental wellbeing. In particular we are making exercise accessible to those for whom mainstream classes are not accessible. We are providing free to access gentle exercise classes that are fully accessible with regards to mobility, hearing, sight, language and needs for modesty. We will be helping women to move more, express their creativity, learn to relax and to process thoughts and emotions, to understand how to care for their mental and physical health while also providing opportunities for socialising.
The programme includes gentle exercise, gentle accessible dance, crafting and drumming.
Sessions take place at Plungington Community Centre and all women are welcome, we also work with referrals through a wide range of services including Social Prescribers, pain clinics, mental health services, housing associations and council services.
I walk out feeling 2inches taller in body and mind each week. I have back pain issues and I feel better after each class.Suzie
I am feeling so much more relaxed and confident. I am in a weight loss journey and have so many aches and pains and was referred by a mental health organisation.Kath
I have chronic pain, I'm in pain all the time and this class is helping me to relax my muscles.
It's so good for body and for mental health. I'm 87 and the sessions really keep me going and set me up for the week.
MS Society: Wednesdays 11:30am at Mandala
We offer a subsidised Yoga & Ballet Barre programme in partnership with the MS Society. Classes are £4 and referral is through the MS Society.
This co-produced programme sees us use ballet barres, chairs and lots of props to support the exploration of balance, flexibility and strength, moving at individual paces and ranges of movement.
The participants have fedback that they have increased confidence when moving around, they enjoy been able to explore standing movements with the support of the barres and that they enjoy feeling graceful. They've also reported experiencing improved balance and reduced aches and pains. Some of the participants have also gained the confidence to explore specific physiotherapy which they previously would not have done.
Emma is really helping me to improve my balance, my neck is a lot less stiff and my hands are better, I can write greeting cards again. I've also made a lovely group of friends and we can all talk about our experiences of MS.
Foxton Centre - Family Yoga
Every Saturday we offer a free yoga class at the Foxton Centre for families. These sessions are delivered in a highly accessible and inclusive way and are attended by community members aged 7months to 70. These sessions are promoted by the Foxton Centre to their service users.
Kirkham Accessible Dance
Our Accessible Dance classes in Kirkham are accessible to those with limited mobility, the focus is on friendship as well as healthy movement to reduce aches and pains and to minimise the chance of falls.
This class is free to access and referral is through Social Prescribers and council services.
Knit & Purl Jam
The Knit & Purl Mandala project aims to reduce loneliness and social isolation by providing a safe and calm space for people to come together and knit or crochet together over a cuppa. We are able to provide free transport for those who need support to attend due to anxiety or financial barriers.
Referral is through Social Prescribers and community partners.
Arts & Craft Socials
Our Mindful Crafters meet each Wednesday at Mandala for our free to attend Wind-Down Workshops and Friendship group. We create and chat over a cuppa. We make new friends, learn new skills and achieve peace of mind through spending time together taking part in a relaxed activity. All are welcome to join us.
As part of our partnership work as a founding member of Phoenix Rising Social Prescribing programme we were invited to work with Lancaster University on an Arts Health Research Council (AHRC) project to explore the benefits and challenges of delivering community-based social prescribing health support for a wide range of participants. The research programme runs from April - December 2023.
We will be working with Lancaster University and a wide range of partners to explore how community-based organisations delivering social prescribing initiatives can expand and grow within integrated care systems.
The project will draw upon a growing network of community partners delivering social prescribing in the north-west of England.
More details here
Our most recent funded programme from March 2021 - March 2022 was Phoenix Rising, a partnership programme across Movement, Visual Arts and Nature. Mandala offered free to access Yoga and Groove classes as part of the project which aimed to provide evidence of Social Prescribing best practice.
Link Workers, Support Workers, GPs and mental health professionals referred those they were working with to these courses.
We are embedded in our community and we are proud to play a part in supporting the wellbeing of our community. We have Enhaced DBS checked teachers one of whom is person-centred and trauma aware and also works as a therapist and we have a robust safeguarding policy.
Our community health programme includes working with vulnerable young people with health conditions and special educational needs at Preston college and Child Action Northwest; working with Deafway's clients, working in schools and nurseries, HMP staff, NHS staff and working with the NHS Lancashire Recovery College service users with long-term health conditions and anxiety. Working with these community groups we are aware of the particular needs of those with long term mental and physical health challenges.
Our community is fabulously diverse and vibrant, representative of the wonderful international population of our city and county. We are aware of and sensitive to the inequality of access to internet services amongst our Asian and Black community and for that reason we are particularly passionate about ensuring in-person classes wherever possible and looking forward we are looking at how we can support improved access to online and in-person services.
The online wellbeing programme we developed and delivered to support the Preston community during the pandemic lockdown resulted in 550 people accessing our wellbeing classes, 66% of whom had never accessed wellbeing services before and the outcomes included improved mood, connections and motivation and reduced sense of isolation and anxiety.
We received Lottery funding to deliver free 4 week Yoga for Anxiety courses to community groups and CCGs and we are part of the Phoenix Rising Wellbeing programme delivering Social Prescribing in 2021 and 2022. Through this programme we are providing funded places for Yoga for Anxiety and Groove classes for those with mental health challenges.
The Yoga for Anxiety course has consistently delivered positive outcomes with reported reductions in anxiety, improved ability to manage anxiety and reduction in the negative impacts of anxiety on daily life. The NHS Recovery College summarising the outcomes as "Yoga for Anxiety works"
Studio Director Emma is an advocate of yoga and relaxation therapies for mental health and for chronic pain and spends time with those commissioning services to ensure that any programme is developed in a way that meets the specific needs of the clients. Emma delivers Yoga and Meditation for the NHS Pain Peer Group programmes.
Emma has also worked with They Eat Culture and The Living City on developing arts for health programmes.
If you would like to discuss how yoga, meditation, music, dance, arts and relaxation programmes might support your community or organisation wellbeing aims please do get in touch email@example.com
Covid-19 Community Programme
During the national lockdown we delivered a free online wellbeing programme for the Preston community.
550 people participated, 66% of whom had never or rarely participated in any wellbeing activities previously. 100% of participants said it improved their mood, 95% said they felt more connected, 89% said they felt more motivated and 88% said they were much more likely to undertake wellbeing activities in the future.
The classes were community inclusive from chair yoga and bedtime relaxation to high energy disco ballet and strength yoga - and everything in-between. Funded by the Lancashire Resilience Fund through They Eat Culture
We are a community wellbeing hub that aims to support the physical and mental wellbeing of Preston people, especially those with anxiety, depression, physical health challenges and low incomes.
We have a diverse board of 4 directors who oversee the community purpose and finances and the board are representative of our community.
Our objectives are to reduce anxiety, depression, social isolation, obesity and blood pressure and improve confidence, physical fitness, creativity and a sense of positivity and community belonging.
What we offer
We offer physical activity (yoga, dance, ballet fitness, pilates), mental health support (counselling, sound therapy, relaxation and meditation therapy and anxiety courses), as well as providing space for community group meetings (for example Friends of the Earth, Gambling Harms Alliance) and for making friendships.
Pre-Covid we offered communal meals at long tables to enable communities to come together and to reduce loneliness and social isolation. We aim to bring these events back and to make more use of food events to improve community cohesion and understanding, reduce social isolation and create pride in place and a sense of belonging.
Who we work with
We work with other organisations to improve recovery. We aim to continue to build on our work with housing associations, GPs, physiotherapists, pain clinics, gambling support groups, NHS recovery services, homeless support and domestic violence charities as well as the city and county council to ensure we are delivering the types of services that are needed and that those in need can access us.
Mandala Preston Yoga is led by a team of Directors with a strong local understanding who are passionate about improving the physical and mental wellbeing of our community.
Emma Lowther-Wright: Director, Yoga & Meditation Teacher and Sound Therapist
Emma is Director and Manager of Mandala Preston. She has lived in Preston city centre for over 20 years. She is a qualified yoga teacher focused on empowerment, rhythm and joy and specialising in the science of yoga, the mind-body connection (especially with regards to physical pain and anxiety) and the role of yoga and sound therapy in improving mental and physical wellbeing and community cohesion.
Her work on reducing anxiety and its impact on life opportunities and physical health includes the successful delivery of workplace wellbeing courses teaching not only how to deal with anxiety but how to create a workplace which creates less anxiety. Her 4 week public yoga for anxiety course is demonstrably successful at reducing the impact of anxiety, enabling participants to take opportunities and make positive life changes.
She was trained to teach yoga by John Scott and continues to study with Scott Johnson and Lucy Crawford-Scott and has studied and teaches Groove, Barre and Balletfitness. She has extensive experience of working with students with anxiety, deafness and cognitive challenges as well as those who are living with trauma.
Emma is a British Academy of Sound Therapist (BAST) qualified sound therapist having achieved a Distinction in the challenging Practitioner level Sound Therapy qualification. She works with groups and one to one.
Karen Chapman, Director,
Karen has lived in Preston all her life. She started to attend classes at Mandala in 2017 and says that the classes gave her confidence and helped her with mental wellbeing, particularly in coping with a life changing illness.
Joanne Afrin-Black, Director
Joanne has lived in Preston city centre most of her life. She started to attend classes at Mandala Yoga in 2017 and credits the community ethos, spirit and teaching with significantly improving her physical and mental wellbeing. She described Mandala Preston as 'life-changing'.
Joanne also has decades experience of promotion and has strong local knowledge....