In reflecting on my time spent in South Africa, one theme repeatedly continues to arise: that I am drawn to Africa and can’t believe it took me 40 years to finally get there! Being in the coffee industry, my husband Chris had been to Africa twice and refers to it as “the cradle of life.” I was not able to go with him at the time and have since had a longing to visit the land that has captured the heart of so many throughout the years. Enter South Africa Yoga. While working at a Yoga retreat in Spain I met a friend, Monique, who has since started South Africa Yoga with her husband Dillon. When they invited me to come teach yoga, I of course jumped at the opportunity! I have recently returned home and am now in love with South Africa — the land, the spirit and the children.
A concept I learned there is Ubuntu, which means you are who you are because of your community. When I first heard this, it reminded me of the yoga community. We seek like-minded individuals at studios to practice with. We reach out to our local communities through fundraising events taking our yoga off the mat and to our neighbors through sharing, caring, spreading light, love, and basic human kindness. We call it Seva — selfless service — but it could just as easily be called Ubuntu. I find this concept particularly interesting since this philosophy can and should be considered not only an African or yogic philosophy, but an entire world view as we are all connected. We are all one.
While teaching at South Africa Yoga, I appreciated the serenity of the environment, the millions of stars in the night sky, the mountains and the wild animals. But the most memorable days were the ones we spent in the local townships visiting early childhood development centers, donating toys and books and playing with the kids. I was impressed that South Africa Yoga had recently organized a fundraising yoga class in Johannesburg where participants were also encouraged to donate books, toys and clothes. The funds raised at this event were then used to buy first aid kits, mattresses for schools, as well as balls and jump ropes for the play yards. I was lucky enough to get to participate in the delivery of all these goods. I felt like Santa Claus as children crowded around, wondering who we were, but then not really caring as we unloaded what must have seemed like a pot of gold! It’s amazing that a simple ball can bring smiles and joy to a child’s face. That’s what I will remember most… those smiles!
I look forward to continuing my work with South Africa Yoga. While I may not be able to return again for a while, I will remember the concept of Ubuntu and how it applies to the Yoga community, my neighbors here in Philadelphia and ultimately the world! A big thank you to South Africa Yoga, Monique and Dillon for affording me the opportunity to not just visit their beautiful country, but for revealing it’s spirit… Namaste!