25 November 2019
Meet The Woman Making Yoga Matter More
"I often start by letting people know that I don’t even mind if they take a nap during my class; I try to lift the pressure and expectation people put on themselves to be "able", the real work is getting up, getting out and making the positive decision to look after yourself."
“I often start by letting people know that I don’t even mind if they take a nap during my class; I try to lift the pressure and expectation people put on themselves to be "able", the real work is getting up, getting out and making the positive decision to look after yourself," Abi Nolan, founder of Supply Yoga, tells me with a lack of pretentiousness so rarely found in the yoga industry that it’s positively refreshing.
For all the yogis that make a point of promoting wellbeing and oneness, it’s almost undeniable that the yoga can be perceived as lending itself to privilege. Among the criticisms often levelled at the practice – and not unfairly – is that it is exclusive, catering only to an audience that have the finances to be able to partake: “whilst it's increasingly unaffordable for most, financial inaccessibility isn't the only barrier. It takes social capital, confidence and an engaging opportunity for people to begin feeling comfortable in a wellness space,” she says.
But from her studio in the corner of Hackney, East London, Nolan is on a mission to change that. The premise is simple: accessible yoga with social impact at its core. A studio that runs on small margins, the money earned from class fees goes back into funding free yoga and breathwork sessions for individuals involved with local community support services who may otherwise face social isolation: “The community that practices with us at the studio know that their support creates time and space for others to breathe deep too."
The result is a studio that’s as much about community togetherness as it is about yoga. Over the past few years, Nolan has established partnerships with charities and grassroots organisations throughout the borough, working with everyone from the Helen Bamber Foundation to MacMillan Cancer Care or Hackney Migrant Centre to deliver confidence building, anxiety reducing and social isolation alleviating yoga-based therapeutic interventions. While Supply Yoga have enjoyed contributions from the likes of Adidas and the National Lottery, most of these interventions are funded directly with the revenue from the classes they run.
Conscious of the intimidation factor that even the most socially confident of us can experience, she heads out to deliver these sessions in ways and locations in which participants feel more comfortable – whether that is in the attic of a local church or in a meeting room at the hospital “The best part of my job is changing people’s minds about what yoga is and that we can find a sense of belonging in our bodies and breath no matter what health, mobility, language or learning barriers are isolating us.”
However, Supply Yoga do now face new challenges of their own. As a result of redevelopment in Hackney and a complicated housing market, the studio is set to lose its home in January 2020; where it will move to is still unknown. “We're hopeful that this set of difficult circumstances imposed on us by the economic climate and volatile property market will simply propel Supply in positive directions we may not have dreamt up had things developed in a conventional, linear way,” Nolan explained in an email to the loyal community that practices at her studio.
Not ones to focus only on their own activities and achievements, Supply Yoga also partner with external organisations to raise funds directly for them. On 7th December 2019 they’ll be collaborating with Decent Works to offer up some mindful yoga and celebratory drinks at a 'Yoga + Mimosas' morning, all in support of Indigo Volunteers, a charity that connects volunteers with grassroots humanitarian projects across the globe.
To find out more about Supply Yoga please see their website
or check them out on Instagram