Preston woman Emma Lowther-Wright has battled through 15 months of personal and professional challenges to reopen her city centre yoga studio.Advertisement
Like other exercise spaces not classed as gyms, Emma’s studio, Mandala Yoga and Wellbeing, has been closed for 11 of the past 15 months due to Covid-19.
During that time Emma has overseen the refurbishment of the studio in Derby Street, and is now launching a host of new services and classes.
After her father died in March 2020, Emma says his positive outlook inspired her to persevere through the hard times in order to help others.
Emma, who lives in Avenham, said: “I lost my dad at the start of lockdown, and my mum and I have worked hard on doing up the studio while I’ve also focused on building the community offering.
“We reopened on Monday 17 May, and are most definitely ‘building back better’ with a complete internal and external makeover, new website, new classes that are unique to Preston, and with a funded social prescribing offer for those experiencing mental health challenges.”
As Emma had only recently started to work for herself when Covid-19 hit, she was unable to claim the government’s financial self-employment support. Instead she set about preparing to reopen while also teaching yoga online and picking up other part-time work.
She said: “At first there was worry about whether the bills at the studio could be covered, but the council grants enabled me to pay the rent and bills and helped to fund some of the refurbishments, which I am so grateful for.”
Emma also secured funding to deliver free classes in both main lockdowns with over 1,000 people in Lancashire benefiting.
Based on this, NHS Recovery College invited Mandala to take part in a partnership bid to provide courses to those experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.
The bid was successful meaning free courses across art, nature, yoga and dance fitness will be available through the Phoenix Rising wellbeing programme from Monday 14 June. Classes can be accessed via GP surgeries who can connect people with their social prescribing link worker.
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During lockdown Emma also trained to become a Groove facilitator.
She said: “Groove is more ‘dance in the kitchen with your mates and one of them shows you some really cool moves’ than a dance class. There’s no right or left and no right or wrong. We dance to everything including pop, rock, reggae, Latin, soul, hip-hop and jazz. There are sing alongs and an all-round fun vibe.
“We’ve also had barres fitted and will be offering Barre from July, and will be adding drum-based fitness class Pound from August. Disco Barre is my blend of disco music and moves with Barre, which is unique!”
Being bereaved during lockdown and dealing with the associated restrictions has made Emma determined to help other people experiencing loneliness.
Emma said: “Losing my dad has spurred me on to support as many people as I possibly can through the pandemic, as he was such a positive person.
“He had chronic pain, cancer and a rare disease called pulmonary hypertension, so he was in a lot of pain, but always very present for others. He was always grateful for what he had and always said there are people worse off, so I want to honour that and follow his example.
“After my dad died it was hard going so long without a hug or a visit from a friend and family other than immediate relatives. It reinforced for me the importance of being physically there for others and to work to help to reduce loneliness in our communities, which will be Mandala’s next focus.”
Read more: Tips for surviving lockdown from a Preston yoga teacher
While Emma is looking ahead to the future, she credits the power of yoga for helping her survive the past year.
“Stepping on my mat each day to practise yoga helped me enormously. It gave me the quiet time to just be with whatever I was feeling in the moment and to work through it without judging.
“My mat has seen a lot of tears this past 15 months. I like to say it catches me when I fall, it’s where I can be my most vulnerable. We hold so much tension in our bodies and it feels amazing to work that out through yoga and Groove.”
To find out more, visit the Mandala website.
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