HIPPOCAMPUS - Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing among Young People through Yoga

European Union. Erasmus + KA2 – Cooperation and Innovation for Good Practices. Strategic Partnerships for Youth
Project type: 
Project leader: 
Francisco J. García Peñalvo
01/10/2017 to 30/11/2019

One of the key challenges in effective work with young people is their frequent lack of engagement, a characteristic that many of those who spend time with adolescents (youth workers, parents, teachers) can attest to. Proposed solutions frequently fail to address core issues relating to the intrinsic motivation of the individual, which is directly related to well-being. Many young people suffer from chronic stress and other issues that inhibit the functioning (and indeed the development) of the prefrontal cortex, and this also affects their intrinsic motivation to engage in any activity. In short, unless their well-being is addressed, they cannot engage effectively.

The HIPPOCAMPUS project aims to address these issues by promoting the well-being of young people through the practice of a range of techniques derived from yoga.
Though the benefits of yoga have been researched extensively, and in some places these practices are used with young people, they are not always accessible to all sectors of society. Disadvantaged young people particularly are less able to participate, for a variety of financial and other reasons. The Hippocampus programme, though it is available to all, focuses especially on the needs and requirements of these groups.

The project aims to reach around 650 people in diverse youth organisations in five countries (ES, IT, BE NO, UK) during the finance period, and many more after. The activities involved are organised into various phases. The initial phase involves the design and development of the programme and the supporting app. The programme will include descriptions and sequences of yoga-based activities, advice and guidelines, especially for staff who will incorporate yoga-based practices into their work, and advice and resources such as infographics for implementing the programme in different youth contexts. The development phase is then followed by an implementation phase which occupies the larger part of the three years because the implementation is in “cascade” to ensure reach to all the organisation and benefits for all the disadvantaged young participants. Initial roll out is to staff who first learn the practices and then later how to integrate them into their own activities. Then the practices are introduced in dedicated sessions with one group of young people, before being integrated into all their activities by the staff. At the end of the process the staff and young people will be self-sufficient with regard to these practices. In a final extension phase the process is repeated for the rest of the organisation, who by then will have witnessed the benefits and are expected to be receptive to it. Throughout the implementation there will be impact monitoring and evaluation of the results. In the final year through dissemination and exploitation activities we will raise awareness of the activities and roll the programme out to other youth organisations.