Good Causes

Online yoga and Bhangra dance classes keep elderly in shape

Several times a week the living room of a flat in Slough is transformed into a yoga studio or a raucous Bhangra dance workshop.

For Dhirajlal Jugatram Master, 84, and his wife Bhanumati, 79, the classes – delivered via Facebook Live by the National Lottery-funded community organisation Apna Virsa – have proved a fantastic way to stay fit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dhirajlal said, “When you get to my age believe you me it’s a big, big help. There are just two of us living in the house and we’ve nothing much to do. Doing these classes helps us keep in shape and makes us feel we’ve got a lot more life in us.”

Prior to the lockdown, Apna Virsa was delivering a wide range of exercise classes to elderly members of the South Asian community and the wider community in schools and sports centres in Slough and Maidenhead. Since March, it has moved much of its activity online, finding an even bigger audience – everyone from pensioners to toddlers are enjoying its yoga and Bhangra classes – in the process.

Dhirajlal and Bhanumati, who have been self-isolating because of their age, admit they miss face-to-face contact with the friends they have made at Apna Virsa’s drop-in classes. But Dhirajlal, a retired tea importer, said the online sessions are the next best thing.

He said, “The two classes are really different. Bhangra is so fast you feel quite tired after a class. Yoga is totally different: it doesn’t tire you but it keeps your joints supple and your body moving easily.”

Some yoga poses are easier than others, of course. He said, “The one I find tricky is when you have to stand on one foot and raise your hands. It is not easy. Quite a lot of elderly people hold onto the wall, but I make sure I stand in the middle of the room because the purpose of the exercise is to keep good control over your body.”

Seema Kamboj, Project Manager for Apna Virsa, said the shift to online classes had proved a “steep learning curve”, but the transition was essential to keep elderly people engaged during lockdown.

She said, “This older community already feels vulnerable and isolated and coronavirus has made it even worse. We had got them out of their houses to do these activities, but after lockdown they were retreating back inside. The online classes are all about keeping people engaged – if they’re not engaging with positive stuff it’s going to impact their physical and mental health.”

Apna Virsa’s online classes can be joined live or watched later in the day – a flexibility that makes them appealing to a wide range of people. Seema said, “We were apprehensive at first because we’d always used social media just for engagement. But a large charity has been so impressed by our use of Facebook they have got in touch asking for advice.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, around £30Million a week is funding good causes across the country.

18th August 2020

For 25 years The National Lottery has been changing the lives of winners and supporting good causes across the UK. Since November 19th 1994 there have been more than 5,700 new millionaires created and over £41 billion has been given to good causes across the UK.

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