Project teaches yoga to uplift people in township communities

2014-03-27 00:00

A PROJECT that has introduced yoga to Inanda and KwaMashu with weekly classes by professionally trained yoga instructors, known as yogis, is proving to be highly successful.

For years, Elle Matthews has been practising yoga, but a 10-day yoga retreat in Thailand would change her life.

“In 2012, when I got home from the retreat, I was increasingly aware of the desperation of people sitting on the curbs in Ballito hoping for a job,” Matthews said. “Not only that, but the circumstances people are living with in the townships made me think. I told my husband that these people need to do yoga.”

By February 2013, Matthews decided to launch the Township Yogi Project to introduce yoga to the Durban townships. A few in the townships were then selected to receive formal training to become yogis themselves, teaching the yoga classes in their own communities.

“It took a long time to register a non-profit organisation, so my husband, Peter, and I decided to fund the project ourselves through our production company Green Shoot Films, and we started filming a documentary called the Township Yogi Project,” Matthews said.

Matthews got Christine Withiel and Brigit Brammer to help out with the classes in the townships.

Brammer still gives yoga classes every Friday morning at the Bhambayi Community Centre in Inanda, and said the philosophy of yoga teaches people to know how to handle difficult situations better.

“Doing yoga makes you accept your circumstances and situations so you don’t get upset that easily about the small stuff,” said Brammer, who has been practising yoga for almost 11 years.

Matthews said they trained four people from the townships and gave them formal teacher training. “Now, as qualified yogis, they can continue to teach yoga in their community.”

Kenneth Shange, Kwazi Manzi, Selby Sithole and Kwazi Khumalo are now enjoying the benefits that yoga has provided them.

Withiel said that normally one would need at least two years’ experience of yoga before you could attempt to become a yogi.

Talking about why they keep doing it, Shange said it’s all about the good energy. Sithole believes in the healing power of yoga and started with classes in the local clinic for patients with HIV/Aids.

Matthews said it’s very inspiring to see the commitment from everyone, from the youngest kids to the gogos, who participates in the yoga classes.

They hope to finish the Township Yogi Project documentary by the end of the year and will try and spread the word to more communities.

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