Dragonfly is the new yoga studio and community initiative swooping into Sydenham. Fittingly, it’s just a short stroll from another successful social enterprise – the crowd-funded Ignition Brewery Taproom which supports people with learning difficulties to brew and serve craft beer.
If you’re a nosy bugger like me, you might have read the gossip online – that Dragonfly was meant to open ages ago and has been plagued with delays.
I decided to meet the people behind Dragonfly myself, to understand the plans for their eagerly anticipated arrival in Sydenham.
Dragonfly’s first studio is based in Brockley, nestled alongside boxy pastel coloured modern offices and residential units. The area is a vibrant creative hub, with PR agencies, an artisan cake maker (supplier to Harrods, no less) and the smell of freshly baked bread wafting in the air. I mention the delicious aroma to Alina Jaber, Dragonfly’s Studio and Business Manager, and she explains they get a free supply of the sourdough from their neighbouring producer, thanks to the studio’s charitable status. The charity angle is news to me, and we settle down for a chat with a cup of lemon and ginger tea in the studio’s changing room.
Dragonfly was launched in 2016, by Mark Lancaster, a respected sports coach and physio and founder and CEO of Gmax Trackstars Athletics Academy, which was borne out of the 2012 Olympics legacy. It supports local young people, providing coaching in running, jumping and throwing.
The athletics academy has supported hundreds of young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, to train with professional coaches. Some of their young athletes are even competing at a national level thanks to the charity’s stewardship.
Dragonfly Yoga was set up by Mark as a community initiative and fundraising activity for Gmax. Apart from running costs, 100% of the profits from Dragonfly Yoga are ploughed back into the charity.
Gmax Trackstars is aiming to reproduce the golden years of Seb Coe, Linford Christie and Daley Thomson. Anything is possible – Crystal Palace is the spiritual home of track and field and South London has earned its reputation as a breeding ground for international athletes.
And it’s not just the kids who benefit. Alina speaks movingly about how, after becoming highly stressed working in high-end retail, she suffered a nervous breakdown. Depressed and low on funds, she became a volunteer at Dragonfly to get some exercise and boost her fragile confidence.
Dragonfly runs a successful volunteer scheme in which local people can give four (or more) hours of their time each week. Volunteers are given a free yoga lesson worth £12 in exchange for every hour they provide. The studio’s aim is to help the unemployed, retired and freelancers with spare time. Or simply anyone who wants to become part of their thriving and caring community.
Alina has since trained to become a yoga teacher and now teaches at Dragonfly. She says her life has been transformed through yoga and the community the studio has provided. “Everyone knows everyone here and we all help each other. Now I can’t walk down the road without people calling my name” she smiles.
Moving on up
The studio in Brockley has been hugely successful, leading to the decision to expand into a larger space, in order to raise more money for the young stars of track and field. The unit under the new Zanara Court was duly found. It’s taken some wrangling as Lewisham Council specified a retail unit should be visible at high street level. Dragonfly have agreed to provide a fully accessible coffee shop and retail unit selling yoga wear. The basement will have three studios for classes, with a capacity of 70 people, as well as two treatment rooms providing massage, reflexology and acupuncture.
As the studio is a community space that is accessible to all, the vast majority of classes are suitable for total beginners. Most of them will be yoga classes, alongside a couple of pilates options. Courses can be booked, as well as pay as you go for more flexibility. And there will be a big emphasis on classes for expectant and new Mums, including hypnobirthing classes. It will be open every day, from 7am until 9pm. As it’s a big site, they will probably need 4 or 5 volunteers working on reception and in other roles at any given time, alongside one or two members of paid staff. And as per the Brockley studio, volunteers will be given free yoga classes and other benefits in exchange.
This yoga studio in Sydenham needs you!
If you’ve walked past the Sydenham site recently, you’ll see it’s an empty shell with concrete walls and no wiring or signs of life. If you’re interested in assisting with getting the site ready, and would be happy to give a few hours of time, Dragonfly would love to hear from you. More information here.
Alina can’t provide an exact launch date, as we all know, things never run to schedule. But let’s just say hopefully by summer you’ll be able to practice your downward dogs and cobras. If you’ve never been to Dragonfly before, you can take advantage of their introductory offer, £30 for 15 days of unlimited yoga. Their website has all the info.
Or, if you’re up for liking and sharing this Facebook post, you can grab a whopping 50% off a single class drop in, 5 class pack, 10 class pack or 1 month unlimited membership.
Do we need a yoga studio in Sydenham?
In Sydenham we’re already fortunate to have a good range of sport and leisure options – including the tennis club, Fit Birds, My Aerial Home (circus skills), Adam Murby pilates, Simone Muller Lotz’s low pressure fitness classes, Run with Elkie and many more besides. There is space for them all, and Dragonfly’s community ethos is sure to be a winning concept and positive addition to our little corner of London.
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