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London: MahaDevi yoga centre

3 September 2020

UK’s only special needs yoga centre is based in one of Unite’s flagship London properties

A yoga therapy charity working with children and adults with special needs and life limiting conditions is based at our Stapleton House property in London.

Back in 2017, Unite Students in partnership with Islington Council, utilised a planning stipulation to incorporate a community space within its new Holloway Road accommodation. We wanted to find an organisation that would bring direct benefit to the local community.

Following a successful tender process, MahaDevi secured the premises and relocated from their previous home, into our much larger premises that we specifically outfitted for their client’s needs

The centre itself provides heavily subsidised therapy to children and adults with special needs often working with hospices to provide yoga therapy to children with life limiting conditions and end of life care. More than 100 yoga therapy sessions are now delivered weekly across three flexible spaces, including one-to-one sessions, tailored to suit specific conditions and individuals. Waiting lists have been substantially shortened due to the larger space facilitating more therapy sessions for both current and new patients.

In addition, the centre has now been able to create a fund which helps to subsidise sessions for families on a low income, making them affordable to all. 228 sessions were provided via this fund over the past year. The organisation has been able to avoid an increase in session prices (already priced at less than half the cost of the national average for this type of session) over the past three years.

The centre also has close links with the student community living in the adjacent property. The centre now has 25 students attending classes on a weekly basis. Several of these students have volunteered along with other members of the community to help redecorate the studio spaces, helping to achieve one of the key objectives for this initiative to provide a genuine way of integrating the students with the local community.

Ben Eydmann, MahaDevi manager, said:

“It was becoming increasingly difficult to run safe spaces for people [where we were before].

“We could never have known until we moved here what would happen: it’s just growing and growing in terms of being a community hub.”

COVID-19 update

As lockdown hit the routines and budgets of organisations and individuals across the country, MahaDevi, thanks to their partnership with Unite Students, was able to roll out their programme of classes online, protect jobs and offer free sessions and resources. This was possible due to the provision of an extended lease giving MahaDevi rental security which allowed them to concentrate on unlocking emergency funding available to charities including funding from the National Lottery, Sport England, and the London Community Response Fund. With such a large chunk of their core costs covered they were able to focus on what they do best – offering subsided therapeutic yoga sessions for children and young people.

COVID lockdown has had a serious impact on families of children with special needs. But thanks to this continued support from Unite Students, MahaDevi Yoga Centre can continue to deliver their yoga therapy sessions at a reduced cost or free of charge. The yoga therapy treatments are open to all families with children with special needs including autism, Down’s Syndrome, epilepsy, Prader-Willi Syndrome, ADHD, cerebral palsy, and wheelchair users.