Strengthening communities; yoga for refugees


Did you know that there is a free/donation-based yoga class every Friday at BNHC specifically for female migrants, refugees and asylum seekers? And that it has been running since 2014?  This was news to me also! And such important news that could have easily been missed amongst the studio and life changes over the last year and a half.

So firstly………

About the class:

Due to Covid, capacity is limited so bookings via email are necessary to join the class. The class welcomes female migrants, asylum seekers and refugees for FREE.

There are classes available for everybody else. Do check our timetable to find out what suits your situation best.

Our aim

Many migrants, refugees and asylum seekers may not have the basics funds or social skills to join classes. Many struggle to make the most of any opportunities that are available to them because of language barriers, discrimination, and mental disturbance brought on by forced relocation. According to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asylum seekers and refugees are more likely to experience poor mental health than the local population, including higher rates of depression, PTSD and other anxiety disorders. Their increased vulnerability to mental health problems is said to be linked to pre-migration experiences (such as war trauma) and post-migration conditions (such as separation from family, difficulties with asylum procedures and poor housing)*

*source: The Mental Health foundation UK

Poverty, isolation and mental illness have a negative impact on our overall health and state of being. Yoga can increase physical strength and flexibility, improve balance, posture, circulation, enhance relaxation, regulate the nervous, digestive and immune systems and in turn reduce cortisol levels. The health benefits of yoga can all counter act in beating depression, stress and anxiety, allowing those who are suffering to feel better in themselves, build confidence and self- esteem

We want people to live their best lives; physically, emotionally and socially. We feel that free inclusive opportunities, such as the yoga class taught by Jen Henwood at 11.30am every Friday at the BNHC studio, provides a safe and supportive space to exercise, make new friends and improve physical and mental well-being.

How the class is funded

BNHC is a long-standing charity that aims to make well-being services accessible to all, including marginalised groups of people and communities.

In 2014, BNHC identified migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as a priority group who could benefit greatly from attending yoga classes. They applied to and were successful in their bid for funding from the Big Lottery (now known as the National Lottery Community Fund).

BNHC collaborates with existing links and services associated with helping refugees and migrants in Brighton & Hove. Both The Migrant English Project (MEP) and the Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership (BMECP) are established partnerships developed in line with starting the class in 2015. The original funding for this project ran out in 2016 and since then BNHC has self-funded the class. In 2018, some additional funding from the Iyengar Yoga Development Fund (IYDF) was secured by Jen Henwood who teaches the Friday class and this funding has been renewed in 2021.

What attendees have to say

(Names have been left anonymous for privacy reasons)

“Yoga makes me aware of this body and makes me come into my body and I notice my knees not hurting, or maybe hurting more, my stomach, or I’ve maybe put on weight or something. It just makes me very aware of my body which I normally just ignore”

“Yes, since I’m coming here just a couple of weeks ago I correct my posture so even if I’m going somewhere else I just go OK, shoulders back (laughs), nice and tall (laughs) and I feel myself much better. So definitely I feel every day the positive impact of yoga class. Because if I’m not here, I’m waiting to be coming here and as I’m a mum, this is the only activity that I’m doing for my health and for my body and it’s just fantastic. So, I love being here and I feel gratitude every time that I’m here…”

 “It’s made me feel a little better because I’ve been in a very severe depression myself. I have had a very bad back pain and this helped me to come and forget about the depression and my back and to meet the other people as well.”

Volunteer job opportunities for all

There are volunteering opportunities available at BNHC for anyone interested, including migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. You can send an email to to ask about volunteer jobs available at present, which may bring a boost of confidence for anyone trying to get back to work.

Would you like to donate?

The Iyengar Yoga Development Fund (IYDF) are funding the teachers fee for the above class and BNHC are self-funding the marketing, hosting and administrating the class, which was originally funded by the Big Lottery fund in 2014. There is currently 6 months of funding left from IYDF and therefore BNHC would welcome any sponsors interested in supporting the future of these classes to continue at BNHC. Do contact us via phone or email to donate and collaborate on this mission to support others.

*source: The Mental Health foundation UK


Crystal Skinner is a yoga teacher and writer. She is Yoga Alliance certified in Yin, Hatha, Vinyasa, Swing/aerial and myofascial release, meditation, pranayama and Kundalini. She is also a qualified NLP practitioner and journalist. She loves cats, eco-friendly focuses and tea in all forms. Full bio and get in touch with Crystal here.

*Please read our class health & safety waiver before joining a class. Contact us before joining the class with regards to any mobility/medical issues which we can share with your teacher.*

All content in this article is subject to copyright  |

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp