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  • Writer's pictureBridie Daniels

I Went to Queer Yoga North's Leeds Post-Pride Chill Event!

Whether you partied all weekend, stopped by for the parade, or celebrated pride at home, there was a lot of wonderful and positive queer energy in the air. I danced my heart out at the queer ceilidh at Rainbow Junktion on Friday and visited Leeds city centre for the pride parade on Sunday, leaving me pretty worn out for a full day of work on Monday!


Thankfully, Queer Yoga North had just the remedy to relax the mind and body after a busy weekend. So, I headed on down to their "Leeds Queer Yoga Post-Pride Chill" event at Headingley HEART to see if I couldn't wind down a little bit and was impressed with what transpired in the session. This was a bit of a transformative experience for me, and I've got a lot to say about it, so you might wanna make a brew and settle in for a long one here.


What is Queer Yoga North?


"Based in the North of England, Queer Yoga is all about healing and joy for the LGBTQIA+ community. We welcome everyone who feels they fit somewhere under the LGBTQIA+ rainbow, regardless of how much or little space there is for your queer identity in your everyday life. We’re here to help create that space, in a 90 minute queer bubble. Maybe you’re questioning your identity, and you’re not quite sure if or where you belong in the vast spectrum of queerness? You’re also very much welcome.


Our sessions are a place to pause, breathe, and be - exactly as we are. Our style of yoga is a blend of hatha, flow, yin and restorative, all used in different amounts to adapt the classes according to the energy and needs of the people in the room."



What Was the Session Like?


The post-pride chill event was messaged as a restorative session with gentle movement. The Instagram post even said "hangovers welcome", so I figured it would be very easy-going. This was my first time visiting HEART in Headingley, and the building was really remarkable. The space was very welcoming throughout with the yoga session being held in the Claremont room upstairs.


This area was slightly smaller, well suited to our group of 8, though it could have facilitated 10 at a squeeze. The host, Kaite (pronounced "Kite"), came across as friendly and warm as they handed out a short health questionnaire designed to get an idea of our individual needs. We then took a moment to introduce ourselves by giving our names and pronouns (pronouns were optional) and we were introduced to the theme of the evening's session, which was "freedom".


Kaite encouraged us to share any feelings or interpretations we had around this theme, whether they were from the weekend's pride celebrations or just in general. To give you an idea of the kinds of things we spoke about, I said that it felt good to be sharing a space with other queer people and that this made me feel very free to be my authentic self.


We then began the session, which included a couple of different types of movement — all of which had variations on intensity to suit everybody's individual needs. At its most intense, the session would have been a low-mid effort full-body stretch. Like most of the people there, I switched between different variations of movement throughout the session, and I think this was ideal in providing the most restorative experience.


The session capped with a period of stillness where we were encouraged to focus on our breathing, listen to some music (more on that later), and get cosy. This was something I particularly enjoyed, as I snuggled under a very fluffy blanket, closed my eyes, and eased into my de-stressed body.


What Equipment Was Provided?


You don't have to bring anything but yourself to a Queer Yoga session, as mats and other supporting apparatus is provided, but I brought my own mat because I had it to hand. One of the things that really stood out to me was the range of equipment available.


Kaite provided yoga blocks and bolsters, which were great for offering additional support with poses and were also incorporated into some of the still/relaxation moments in the session. There were also lots of blankets and pillows for added comfort, including weighted blankets for those who enjoy them.


Accessibility


Accessibility is something that is covered at the start of the session through the health questionnaire. Kaite took the time to let us know that the session could be tailored to suit a range of needs by using various yoga apparatus. They also provided chairs so that floor-based or standing movements could be done seated.


Kaite has studied with the Accessible Yoga School and was ready and willing to make any adjustments that were needed. I noted on my health questionnaire that I have some sensory needs relating to sound, and Kaite made a real effort to check in with me regarding certain types of noises and volume throughout the session.


There was a moment where Kaite offered to make some optional adjustments to help people relax during a still portion of the class, which involved touching the legs. This was communicated very well and always presented as an option, making it very clear that consent was a priority for the instructor wherever touch was involved. This was the only instance where the instructor touched any of the attendees.


The venue itself was also accessible with extra-wide doors, ramps, and lifts to all floors as standard. HEART has done a great job of providing an extensive list of accessibility features and notes on the venue's website, and I would encourage you to take a look at this.


Unexpected Moments of Connection


I went into the session expecting an opportunity to relax and connect with my body a little bit more, and that's exactly what happened. However, there were lots of unexpected moments of connection that occurred for me throughout the session that I wanted to mention too. I've often heard that yoga can be healing for the body and mind, and I figured that was largely due to the relaxation element of the practise.


I consider myself to be an emotionally available person and I practise mindfulness when I can remember, but I've never been one for mantras or really carving out space to just let whatever emotions that come up sort of wash over me. I'm not opposed to these ideas in principle, but I was certainly surprised with the range of emotions I experienced during the session.


There was a real vibe of love and acceptance, which is something I fully expected for a queer yoga class, but there were moments where Kaite shared artwork from other attendees that really made the session special. They shared a piece of embroidery around the theme of freedom, as well as a poem written by a 9-year-old trans girl that brought a tear to everybody's eyes.


During one of the still moments of the session, Kaite played a song that was created by members of the Durham yoga community. The song, entitled "She / Her", was performed by a duo called Honey Venom and was described to us as a lesbian love song. It was an absolutely beautiful listen with some really poignant lyrics, which I really connected with. You can listen to it on Spotify here!


I didn't expect to have the emotional reaction I did to this song in particular, but I ended up having a proper cry in this moment. We were all lying down with our eyes closed when we listened to the song, so I didn't feel on the spot experiencing these emotions and was able to allow myself to simply feel my feelings, which was really healing for me.


At the end of the session, we sat down and took part in an (optional) tea circle where we shared some thoughts and feelings about the session, queerness, and about the theme of freedom. There was no pressure to share anything, but many people did speak from their hearts and it was a beautiful way to round off the session. I had an amazing experience here and I am looking forward to attending another event in 2 weeks.


Upcoming Events and How to Attend!


Queer Yoga North has just announced that they are upping their Leeds sessions from monthly to fortnightly (lucky us!), but they also host sessions in areas like Durham, York, Saltburn, and Middlesbrough. You can check the class schedule and book into a session here. Classes are priced on a sliding scale ranging from £7.50 to £12. The next Leeds class is taking place on the 21st of August from 6pm; hope to see you there!



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