I have struggled with yoga in the past. I have moved to a new city and was keen to explore the local yoga studios and connect with new people.
Exploring of local yoga studios was easily accomplished. Meeting new people however, was a challenge. I was keen to meet up with other yogis and yoginis after class, but most of them had their mat rolled up before I knew it and rushed out of the studio. I held on tight to my yoga mat, my one and only friend and made my way home.
With sadness I thought back about all the times I was in Africa and how easy I made new friends! I felt welcome and at ease. From a young age, I have been drawn to Africa, the culture, music, climate, dance and the people took my attention, as if I was resonating with it on a deeper level. I always joke that I must have been an African mama with a dozen of kids in one of my past lives.
With a yoga teacher as mum, I came in contact with yoga before I was even born. However, I didn’t spend so much time on my yoga mat the first 20 years of my life. After my first trip to Africa, I left my heart behind and I was determined to go back again.
I definitely practiced a few Sun Salutes while in Senegal, Kenya, The Gambia and Ghana; however my practice mainly took place off my mat.
I practiced svadahaya while living in such a different culture than the one I was brought up in. I became clearly aware of my beliefs, customs and my western way of living. I changed my perspective on my life and myself. I made the first steps to start perceiving myself as a beautiful young woman and my confidence grew slightly. I started to feel more relaxed and less rushed.
I experienced a deeper sense of connection while in Africa than when living in the so-called Western societies. Most people I met were incredibly inspirational, they were so happy and content with so little. They live with a sense of connection, feeling part of a community and family. People are often introduced like: “He is my brother from different mum and dad.” Nieces and nephews are sisters and brothers as well.
They live as a community and family, instead of the more individualistic way of living in a Western society. I would describe it as Ubuntu; the South African way to express “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.” It felt like coming home and something in me kept me calling back to this continent of extremes.
In Africa, I truly experienced living in the moment and going with the flow. I experienced people living more in the moment, because life and death is so much more present in the everyday society. They realize and know that they have to live now. And that is exactly what we here in our “developed” society trying to relearn. Yoga has never been so booming—which is great of course. With all the technologies nowadays, smartphones, email, Facebook, Instagram, a lot of people struggle to switch off, including me. Stress is disease-causer number one.
We all know. I smile from within if I see how we try to teach Africans to plan, to be more organised, save money to create a better future and to live more “developed” like us. At the same time, modern yogis fly to India or Bali to go on a yoga retreat, meet enlightened masters, to live more mindfully, letting go of the materialistic world and connect with people on a deeper level, exactly what I experienced when living in a traditional African culture.
At times, my yoga practice consists of a crying session on my mat while listening to beautiful music. When freshly back from Africa I struggled to integrate back in my old life. I felt quite lonely at times and struggled to connect with others. I missed the shared joy and laughter, the smiles on people’s faces and the spontaneous outbursts of music and dance. Sometimes I can feel a strong urge to go back to a remote African village, to live with the sun, share life with the people nearby, laugh, eat and dance together.
That is why I love to integrate the principle of Ubuntu in my yoga practice and yoga classes. Our journey to unify our mind, body and spirit, doesn’t have to be a solo journey. It is way more fun, supportive and interesting to share this journey with others. Are we not all connected in the end?
Some days my yoga practice is a combination of yoga and African dance with great music. I am a stress chicken and can easily create worries and anxiety in my mind. So often my head is overactive, bringing my attention back to the rest of my body supports me to start the journey from my mind to my heart.
While moving and breathing, I can slowly start to bring my awareness to my belly, my creative center. I start to let go of any concepts I have created on how you should look like or feel when practicing yoga, instead I just move, breathe and listen. I feel once more that we don’t need much to be happy or feel content, just start with a smile to that stranger, soon-to-be your friend next to you.
Be courageous and create your own yoga.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kathryn Muyskens / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: Author’s Own