HIV+

The Locked Door

How a Locked door can Unlock other doors…

Today was an extraordinary good day Yoga wise. I was picked up at 10 o’clock in the morning to go teach Giti Cy’inyoni. This is the place up on the hill, I have to bring up the big bag of mats there, which sometimes is a hard job, but often a nice strong young boy will volunteer to bring this big bag up.

Alice* and I went up. She was going to counsel and after I would teach yoga. But once up, at the little church, there was no key. The woman who had the key wasn’t home so she gave this key to her daughter, who went to school, left he key in the house and locked the house.
So, no one could reach the key, so we could not enter this little Church (imagine, its a small building, with only one room where people gather for religious gatherings, nothing more and nothing less than that). Alice seemed to be a bit frustrated and didn’t know what to do. After a little while, I suggested her to do the counseling outside the building. She women searched for a good spot around the building and asked me if it was fine to practice yoga behind the building. Since there was some shade. Behind the building was a small trail between the building and the hill, i could line up maybe 4 mats in a row and that’s it. The women really didn’t want to miss out on Yoga, but it did seem a bit impossible to do Asana practice at the space we were.
On the hill, in front of the building grows a big tree. The ground is wobbly, rocky with little bits of grass but mostly dust and sand. We decided to put down yoga mats there for the woman to sit on it in the shade and then Alice did her counseling there, but she said she couldn’t go so ‘deep’ today, because they were outside. And so she stopped early and gave me the rest of the time to do yoga. Which as i explained, it was not the right place for that but i didn’t just want to leave, i had to think of something. I sat down in between these ladies and all of them were waiting curiously of what was going to happen. I wanted to use the time well, and grab this opportunity to teach them other parts of yoga, other than just the physical ones.

Then I start telling them a story I heard before. Alice translated every word;
“Once the Breath, the Eyes and the Ears were in a conflict. They could not decide who was most important of them. And for that reason, they had to test it. The decided to go on a holiday each, one by one, and see how the body would do without them. So, first the eyes left. The went on a holiday. Vision was gone, but nevertheless the body survived. After the eyes came back, the Ears went and left the body in silence. It was an obstacle, but the body did survive without the ears. Then the breath left. If didn’t take more than 30 seconds before the Eyes and the Ears screamed: “ Breath, come back, come back! Without you, these eyes cannot see and these ears cannot hear!”. So after this, it became clear, that the breath is most important.”
After this story I explained why the breath in yoga is very important. How breath-control is helping people when they are afraid, scared, nervous or stressed. I explained the benefits of yoga on the mat in yoga-class, but also off the mat in daily life. I told them were Yoga comes from, how it is a healing practice and not a religion. I told them that yoga is much more than just the physical practice in the class, but underlying you can reveal parts of yourself you didn’t know before. Again explaining that body and mind work closely together and if you feel free and healthy and flexible in the body you will be more likely be able to free, healthy and flexible in the mind.
Very grateful i was, that Alice explained all to them in Kenyarwandan. They were all very quite and were listening very concentrated. Then there was time for questions. I asked them if they had any.

Then the first woman starts to speak. Pedi is her name. She did not have any question, but a testimonial to give. She wanted to share her Yoga experience with the group.** Alice translated everything.
The lady said that because of the big amount of medicine she has to take for HIV, she felt tremendous pain in her sides. (she points at her hips). Deformation happened, the shape of her body changed, she grew fat on places and lost weight at others. She felt out of balance. She grew fat from above and skinny around her hips what became painful. Also she experienced back pains and stomach pains. After practicing yoga, she said, her complaints disappeared. Every morning, she added, she practice yoga by doing the Sun-salutations in her own house. And then she smiled. The group applauded!

After her, Angelique started to talk. Angelique is a beautiful woman, she smiles a lot and likes to sing and dance. She said she has Yoga class once a week, but would Love to have it twice a week! Everyone started to talk and clap their hands as if they agreed on that! Angelique shared her story with the group and Alice translated it as:
She was suffering from pain in her urinary system. She had problems with her kidneys. After practicing yoga, she no longer had that problem.
Another woman explained, that before, she didn’t feel her fingers of other parts of the body. Like no feeling in the muscles. Some others reacted on that, and said they experienced that as well in the past, it seemed like a problem many had, but after doing yoga, the feeling in their fingers, muscles, bodies returned. (Which is explainable, one reason I think Yoga is very good, especially for this group of people, is to re-find themselves, physically, learn to create basic awareness in their bodies that they lost after Genocide experiences, rape or other violent experiences and illness they suffer from – all of them suffer from HIV) They said that before they knew yoga, they had to visit the doctor from time to time and now the amount of doctor visits is decreased.
The woman sitting next to Donatella told me: She had physical problems and felt very bad, but she didn’t know what was wrong. She went to the hospital and also got a scan. Then she felt very very sad because even with making a scan the doctors couldn’t find what was wrong. Then after practice yoga, she feels very strong. Her bones are not hurting anymore, he doesn’t have these complaints anymore and just feels very strong.
One lady, felt sick today and could’t sit up. She had to lay down her head on some other womans’ lap. She did shared with the group, the benefits she experienced of yoga on better days.
They were very honest and open! And i am grateful they trusted me enough to share their feelings. Now i can share them and show how important this work is! Honestly, it gave me tears in my eyes and the rest of the day a skip in my step… One American girl, told em a couple of days ago, that she thought that yoga was only good for people who are in peace with themselves or who felt safety and not this group of people. I disagreed completely, i think yoga has great benefits for everyone but especially these woman! The best proof, are these woman themselves, very very challenged ones, the very psychically sick ones and the mentally troubled ones… they feel better, they become more happy about themselves and and it shows, i can tell! But also, they told me that.. very clearly today.

I told the ladies that a woman who practice yoga is called a Yogini, which they really seemed to like, they called each other Yogini, shook hands with a big smile on their faces!
After this we listened together to the new Shakira song on my Iphone, ‘Waka Waka’, and they stood up and danced! Lovely!! This is Love, and a truly precious Yoga class, under a big Tree, in front of the unluckily locked door that opened other doors this morning…

Namaste Cyane!! Anneke

* Alice: A local counselor from from We-ActX, an NGO who works with HIV+ woman plus domestic violence, rape survivors, genocide survivors etc.. we work with.
** This group of ladies practice Ashtanga Yoga once a week, for about 3 years now.

“Yoga, as a way of life and a philosophy, can be practiced by anyone with inclination to undertake it, for yoga belongs to humanity as a whole. It is not the property of any one group or any one individual, but can be followed by any and all, in any corner of the globe, regardless of class, creed or religion.”
— Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India

“Woelige Weken”

Means that these weeks had some troubles in them.

First of all, the new volunteer came, but it didn’t work out. She was assisting me but because of the circumstances we failed to work progressively together and she failed to be an assistant well. And… she left again. Which is not what we expected, but it happened. So, that means we are looking to find a solution. Like in any case, there will be one, for sure. In life, many things happen unexpected, the good and the bad. It’s better to relax with it, even when the event makes you feel uncomfortable and learn from these moments than try to control them and be frustrated and upset. So, that’s what i am doing here. See what lessons this brought i guess. In the meanwhile classes continued. Every day.
Yesterday, Sunday, i was teaching at the Mosque again, like every Sunday. The kids were all over the place! Normally there are 15 kids, but often one or two do not show up or are sick or something like that, but now it was full on! Seventeen teenagers between 14 and 16-17 years. The whole classroom we were in at this Mosque, was packed with yoga mats. And they all were very excited. It was fun but hard to keep their attention up and the mouths closed. In cases like this, i cannot be too strict, yoga will become a punishment. So it’s a search for the right balance. Time for some laughs now and then and concentration on other moments.
When i had all their attention, something would happen to make them giggle, like somebody outside walks by.. or anything silly like that is reason enough to start a new group giggle. Last week, one was sleeping in class. I could tell the energy was way more calm, probably some felt sick… not this week. This week no one fell asleep, their energy was overflowing.
I did noticed that make one child teach a round of sun-salutations helps. For some reason they do like to listen to each-other. Also i made them do a few more exciting postures, like Crow, which made them concentrate hard to try, but then, they all wanted to be the ‘best’ it seemed and started to say: “Teacher, look!”, “Teacher, look at me!”. “Teacher, teacher, teacher!”. One start, all of them follow. So then what to do? Yes! Balasana… and breath. Breath only through the nose in Child Pose. This way they look down and not at each other. It seemed to help. It was just a hard day for concentration for them for some reason. In Savasana they were all very still… for 5 seconds. One sneezes, one snores, one breaths very loud the other one is touching the neighbor.. all reasons for distraction. I guess Full Moon is close. These kids are kids.
And no ordinary kids. They have a very troubled life. Some of them are orphans, but not all of them. If the parents died both but they are living with a far away family member for example, they are not always called an orphan, because someone is taking care of them. We could still call them an orphan, lack the love of the biological parents. Then most of them are HIV+ or the parents or caretakers are. So they live in a HIV+ environment and all the negativity and troubles that comes with that.
The girls are so sweet. The more i saw them, the more to get to know them. And they me. In the beginning, before class, they are a bit shy, but then after class, they have energy and all want to walk holding my hand or arm, so i would walk away with 5 kids somewhere on my body. Then i sat down with them while the got milk, a bun and a banana… and they played with my hair. And my iPhone. Music and pictures making… They know how to share good vibes, that’s for sure!

Today, Monday i thought at the Church, like every Monday. First they had their counseling session and then yoga. Poor ladies, they heard today that one of the ladies from their group (this group HIV+ and Domestic violence) was killed in a car accident last week. They found it very sad. Some cried. Then i was teaching yoga. I decided to keep it a little bit more calm today. Ashtanga yoga but just a bit slow with extra breaths. Humeka Kabisa. That’s what we did. Humeka Chane (deep breath in) and exhale… move on.
It’s interesting how people here thing of death and dying. Some seem truly sad after hearing news of death. For some it’s not very special. Or maybe they are still finding their way in their ideas about dying? I spoke to someone who told me his whole family, mothers side, got killed during the Genocide. I told him how sorry i was.. asked how sad that must be! He smiled a little and looked at me like ‘duh’, ‘it just happened. It’s long ago, it’s OK now. Really, it really is OK now!’.
Also i read a book at the moment about the Genocide, and the writer tells that people do think different about dying now than before. And even ‘before’ in this country, is complex. Because in their ‘before’ the were just getting back on track from the other Genocide, it happened a few times in the last century in this country.

Whatever added to this week to become a ‘Woelige’ one? Off course. The Dutchies lost the World Cup finale. Well, that’s it. We lost. We did great before and now we lost. Pressure was high, Spain was good… and it’s a 50% chance.. Now we are 2nd best football team of the world, how amazing is that! I watched at the same hotel as where I did before. Les Mille Colins. It was nice. Afterwards had some nice chats with Dutch people for a change. It was good.

And now, getting into the new week. Working on classes, reading about Ashtanga, kids yoga, HIV and so on. Teach teach teach… inspire and get inspired. Share the Love!
Project Air is always seeking more volunteers. More work is coming up – here and in Congo and it’s only getting more and more interesting!
Let me know if you have questions about that or want to apply to join!!

Exhale… Anneke x