Practice Love

“Love will find a way”

Very thankful I am to be able to sit here in my body on my urban balcony and just let the rays of sunlight hit my skin. A new day, new opportunities and ideas. The year just started and I made New Years resolutions just a couple of days ago… at the end of December and they took over my mind a bit.

The last few weeks were a bit stressful because of the transformations that are taking place. For me, seeing the year is being eaten up by itself and the new year will start, is a great moment for reflection and creation. It feels like destroyoing Shiva-ish powers were active messing up my ideas of who I am.  It’s a bit tricky, like closing a circle that’s already been closed or never will be. For me, I am at least always inspired by these feelings to become aware of the unclosed circles in my life… some things needed closure and they did. Other things will pop up and start developing. Creation.

In these weeks I worked hard on an assessment. I decided to go back to school. I work in a psychiatric ward as a nurse and at work I got the opportunity to enter this post-Bachelor program that leads to become a Social Psychiatric Nurse. This assessment made me a bit insecure, another big moment of reflection entered my path. But, at the end I got it all done and also I had a great talk with the head of the program. I would really Love to combine my psychiatric work and my Love for Yoga. For some reason I was a bit anxious that an institute like a college or university would be against these ideas but I was happily surprised that in this first conversation with the head of the program, she even stimulated me to bring Yoga into the Amsterdam Psychiatry! Two thousand and eleven… there is work to do! To be continued…….

Back to my balcony, where I am siting now and writing this post, the waters in front of my house attract a lot of water birds, especially when they are fed. How much I like these birds, it’s great to offer them bread especially in the colder winter months the seem very appreciated of that. Amazing how many there are when the sun is shining and because of that their shadows on the ground will even double their number. It might be just an illusion but I think it’s a pretty one. I feel inspired by a message I just saw today from Sharon Gannon from Jivamukti Yoga NYC. A few senteces from this message:

Gardening. Many [yoga] teachers, as well as [yoga] students, are expressing the fact that they live in apartments in dense cities where gardening is just not possible. The concept of gardening can be stretched to included taking care of anything or anybody-feeling joy in contributing to nourishing another and seeing them blossom-becoming happy and healthy. It doesn’t have to be that you have a plot of land in your back yard and grow lots of vegetables. You could have one rosemary plant in a small pot on your kitchen windowsill, or there may be a cat or a dog whom you take the time to feed well and provide for, thus improving their lives. That cat or dog may not even live with you, but perhaps with a neighbor, or perhaps the dog or cat is homeless and lives at the local shelter and you go and visit them once a week, volunteering to take the dog for a walk or bring them some special food.

This made me think of these beautiful ducks, seagulls and swans. My dream is to live in a place with animals and nature around me, the sun shining on my face in the morning, feeling love and share this with others around me. It’s a delight feeling that basically I am living my dream already here at my urban Amsterdam balcony in the wintertime. Soak up the first sun of the year, feeding the birds and taking special care of my little Aloe Vera plants I love so much… Sweet realization, sweet practices of Love!

All you do, do it with Love ♡ Practice Love… And warm up your heart.

Sun-Kissed-Salutation, Anneke



Closing doors, opening doors

and it’s all good.

I do miss Africa at times. The friendship felt, the beauty seen. Back in Amsterdam, a few things became visible. How much I Love this city and how much I feel home here and how fast you get Africanised or simply get used to a country after a while. I found this country so ‘white’ and also off course cold. I caught myself looking up into the air all the time when a helicopter would fly over. I had no idea there were so many heli’s here in Holland. I guess I never paid attention to them before. In Rwanda I was always wondering what these things were doing up there…

I miss teaching Yoga every day. I do practice myself (almost) every day. And I found a place to sub teaching in Amsterdam. Shape. It was nice to teach again. Then I am very excited about organizing Global Mala this year at the Astanga Yoga School in Amsterdam! This event will be organized to raise awareness. On this day we will practice 108 minutes of yoga while creating this awareness for the Rwandan women are practicing the art of Ashtanga yoga for healing, taught by Project Air.
Admission will be on donation and all donations will be supporting Project Air. All levels are welcome! The yoga school will be open from 10.00h – 15.00h. Yoga class starts at 11.00h – Come and Join!
After class there will be healthy finger food and tea provided while there is space to see and buy original Rwandan photographic artwork, made by local Rwandan yoga students. The pictures made by the donated camera’s. hey Loved this project as well! Through images we share their reflection on life, while giving them the opportunity to sell their work. Pure Fair Trade. I will teach the yoga class and also share some of my experiences.. What a great way of sharing what I saw.. I am very thankful for this opportunity!

I didn’t want this project to stop after I left Rwanda, and it won’t. From this chapter I will move into the next one.. walking our way up to the House of Love

To be continued!!!

Some Things

While I am eating my last ‘Stroopwafel’ imported from Holland by myself, I write another blog entry. I just had one package and ate them very mindfully. That way i could enjoy this sugary sweetness up until the day of today, here in Rwanda!

Early this morning. Concentration level was low, the Love level very high. The women at Ineza where the sweetest today, although they couldn’t be still during yoga class. I taught them this morning, these ladies are so precious.

After that class, I taught the adolescents group.
Their concentration level is very very high and their relaxation level… gone. They seem to push themselves so hard to be ‘good’, my task in class is to find ways to slow them down, relax, smile, breath, enjoy, learn… the opposite from what happened this morning at Ineza, I had to move them into Yoga by motivate them and find creative ways to start by make them be still. One would make a sound, all would laugh. Over and over… and loud!
Which is fine. i am sure there is a reason for their lack of concentration today, they have no easy lives. Poverty, HIV..etc.. And probably my energy had something to do with it as well, i felt a little sad today, they were restless but very sweet. If I see peace in Savasana and after that bright smiles, and woman who thank eachother to share their yoga, I do feel happy.

One of the adolescents (Aimable, the boy left on the photo, who will become a future local yogateacher, he was just asked last week by me if he was interested in starting training for that, he smiled brightly and said: “Yes! i feel very ready for that!” -sweet!-) asked me after class: ” Anneke, you make pictures of us, that way you will always remember us. We don’t have camera’s how do we remember you?” I replied that they can do, every morning 5 rounds of Sun Salutations in their houses.. that way they would remember me! They smiled an knodded, that seemed like a good idea. I hope so…
After the morning Ineza class I bought a few cute little ‘heart-shaped’ bags from them. And a yoga-mat bag. Truly fair trade. These ladies making bags all day, that’s their job. (click here to see the profiles of the ladies)
We-act is facilitating these opportunities (WE-ACTx, the NGO that works with HIV+woman, we work with very closely as well).

After this morning, i was busy busy making many arrangements in, around and at the program here. My guard here, Damascene, he’s very sweet, he became my good friend, since it’s just him and me now in the house at the moment. He speaks a little bit English (i am teaching him English) and a little bit French and Kenyarwandan off course. So, we kinda made our own language. A mix of English and French words, a small selection, and Kenyarwandan words, again, a small selection but then from my part). Here in Rwanda, Damascene seems to understand me very good. It’s very interesting. We talk very much, without knowing each others language. He pays very good attention though (next to his work, he has a busy job here in the house and does that in an excellent way), he seems to feel very well what i mean or need. A little example this, very cute:
Today after yoga in the afternoon, in my very busy schedule, I was planning on going to buy some souvenirs, like a wooden mask or something. I know there is a market close by. So I asked Damasecene to go with me, since I don’t know exactly here it is, and he does.
“Yego!!” he off course answered. He’s always in the mood to come with me for some fun. But, then when i arrived home from teaching yoga, i saw that the market was in front of the house! When I was gone, he went to the market by himself, to see the prices. He saw it was crazy expensive and decided to ask one of these guys to come to the house if they were interested to make some money.. And that’s what happened. The market man with his son and a few others and all his wooden statues, dolls, masks etc. were in front of my house, on the street. Sweet! That was just what i needed after a crazy and busy day like today… Then they didn’t have the mask i liked, so Damascene and I explained what i was looking for ( a few things) and tomorrow morning before yoga, the guy comes back with things i might like. Easy for me, good business without competition for him. Good prices that way for both of us, everybody happy.

After dinner, this same Damascene showed interest in the yogamat laying there and tried to get into a yoga posture. Before we knew i was teaching him a complete yoga class. He was unstoppable. The more acrobatic, the better.. off course. I had to slow him down. But his excitement for yoga was nice to see. Hope he will continue to learn this… tomorrow i will teach him more. Sun-salutation in the right way to start with. On the picture, Damascene on, probably, the first Downward Facing Dog of his whole life! (a moment to treasure) But i suspect not the last one.

Also, very clearly we’re getting closer and closer to election date. Many helicopters in the air during he day, because.. who knows! And posters and other campaign material everywhere!Rwanda's President And that’s that.

Also today was a sad day for some of us. I feel very sorry about that. The bad news Stijn told me yesterday, that Maria died in Spain. My thoughts were with them all day…. A day crazy and very very sad with sparkles of Love from the beautiful people here, came to an end… Goodnight!

Anneke x

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

Sunday’s Thoughts

Soon the driver will be here, to pick us up to teach yoga. Yes, we. I am not alone anymore another volunteer arrived. She will assist me in classes, which is nice. She arrived 5 days ago and her name is Erin. Then Jean (one of the three drivers from We-ActX that also drive us from and to classes) picked us up. This picture is Jean and his pregnant and pretty girl. She will give birth in a week and a half! one of the 3 drivers

Inhale – receive and accept, exhale – release and let go….

Today it was Sunday and taught the teens at the Mosque again. What changes from The House of Allah into The House of Love. It was very nice, as usual. The kids were much more calm than last week. One girl, a sweet one, she was so tired she fell asleep during class. I left her asleep. She probably needed it badly. I learned today that they are not all orphans. Some have a far away family member who is raising them or just lost one parent. Still they call them orphans then. The all are HIV+. All the children that gather around the mosque for activity on Sunday are HIV+. A few hundred. There might be a few exceptions, these are children who are living in a HIV+ system and undergo he same kind of stress and mental pain, since the close peer group is infected.

It’s sweet. Typical teenage behavior they show, also here i Rwanda. I lined up 4 mats in a row at the back of the classroom, and yes, 5 girls sat on it. They are best friends forever, sit together, don’t want to separate… I told them one should sit away from their little ‘group’, like, still very very close, but we cannot practice with 5 girls on 4 mats! But no, that was a too hard decision to make.. Who was going? Just when i was going to pick one, the girl that seemed to have a more ‘leading function’ in the group decided another one had to go. It seemed fine.
In class they were concentrated and tried to do their best. They count the breaths with me, it’s so sweet!

Also they help each other when needed. I really like that. What i also see, is that are really copying. Actually also the adults do that here. I guess people do copy the teacher in general, but here in Rwanda it happens i think even more. If we put our hands up for example and i point out a body part i want say something about, they all point out that body part instead of keeping their hands up… Funny. Then we did some teamwork postures. They loved it! Like Navasana (Boat Pose) with touching each-others feet, and holding hands. It was a playful and sweet class. Also concentration came back all the time. Then after class… The want to play with the iPhone. Play music, make pictures and look at those pictures and giggle!
After class we stopped at a store in the neighborhood there, the Muslim area, and it’s Sunday and still the stores were open.. many of them. Small stores, to buy little convenient things i guess.

Damescene, our ‘i-do-it-all guard’ made many pictures today and yesterday. He’s pretty addicted of making photo’s now he knows how the camera works i gave him for the ‘True Eyes’ project.

I didn’t write a few days. Let me see, what happened this week i want to share? Well, of course i could tell something about the Holland – Brasil game! Everybody knows what happened. We were the winners! I watched the game at the Mille Collines hotel. That’s Hotel Rwanda. It’s not the same one as i the film, i heard it was filmed outside of Rwanda! It was big fun! It did feel also a bit weird. Even-though it looks different than in the movie, this hotel was the one where the hotel owner was hiding many many ‘Ts’ during the Genocide. And that way saved their lives. (Did i mention before that the words for the two groups of people here are forbidden words now? I am used to use the letters T and H if there is any reason to talk about this differentiation.) A movie worth watching to see what shouldn’t happen ever again. So, in that hotel i watched a Dutch football game! Strange. Everyone was super excited. Especially after we won 2-1! There were many Dutch people, some Rwandans in Orange and some other foreigners dressed in Orange. Then there was in the middle of that, one Brazilian family watching. Beer, orange Fanta and finger-food was .. free! Wow, nice.. the Dutch way! Let’s change our stereotype! It was a good time.. met nice people and will go back this Tuesday when Holland does it again! Cross fingers!
Also Saturday i taught at the Serena hotel, which was very nice, the class went smooth and the rest of the day as well. I used the pool until the sun disappeared behind the hotel and then laid myself down in the sauna, sat in the steam-room and chatted with nice people while enjoying some fresh squeezed juices. This membership is sweet! It’s a Saturn’s day Yoga turns out to be the recharge day from now on i believe… Monday night i will start teaching Wazungu (the white people) in our house here and Tuesday night i will teach the people at the USA embassy. More info about classes is on a new page on my website, see ‘news’ on the homepage.

Sweetest dreams, Anneke

Muraho Ineza

Very Good Day

It means. In Rwanda it is very much appreciated when you speak a few Kinyarwanda (this is the language spoken here) words. Most people know what ‘Hello, how are you’ in English means, and in my experience they do react respectfully on that. But if you speak some words in Kinyarwanda, the reaction is very different. It seems to open the conversation up, they seem more willing to talk with you. In Yoga class is necessary to speak some words Kinyarwanda. Deirdre can do that well, and i am practicing right now. I have a list of most used words in Yoga, all the body parts, moves (left, right, straight, bend etc.), words like Inhale, Exhale, left, right, count to ten etcetera.

My day started fine. I took my time to wake up. Then went upstairs to the Yoga room in the house and did my practice. Nice it felt, my muscles like this lovely practice. I stretched and found my limitations, went over there a little but i was conscious of not hurting myself. Pushing and pulling, pain and struggling… that’s no Yoga. I am preparing the class i am going to teach this afternoon (all by myself this time).
Again in a church with a group of woman who are suffering from the effects of domestic violence and HIV. Should i teach them suffer even more? We want to teach them how to become strong. Strong from the inside, strong in their own bodies. We teach them how to find balance in themselves and feel their own bodies. Become aware of themselves, their strengths and powers. Love their bodies, Love themselves.
I thought about the way we sometimes practice yoga in the West. No one in the world needs to or should suffer in yoga practice, but still… we sometimes do. Competition can he high, faces look scared, bodies are in pain… frustration arises, Love flows off and even hate can come in. We would skip Asana (posture) because we don’t like them. They hurt us, they are annoying or painful. They may annoy us because we cannot do them as ‘well’ as we would like, or we cannot do them as ‘well’ as the people in the magazines can.
It’s not the posture who does that to us, we do it do ourselves. Our mind does. We push ourselves too hard and forget how to smile. We scare ourselves by dropping into postures too fast when we are just not ready. It’s not the posture that is scary (example back drop in Urdhva Dhanurasana) but we sometimes make it scary by going too fast. Be aware of your fear, embrace the stiff leg, Love your short hamstrings… they will grow, trust them. Be patient. The ladies here in Rwanda need kindness. Like anybody does everywhere.

Be kind to yourself. That way we can be kind to others.

Hawaiian proverb means: Love gives life within.
Love is imperative to one’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual welfare. A kind word can melt the hardest heart. Look at a situation with love. It changes everything.


Learn how to greet in Kinyarwanda

Also today: I taught another class, all by myself i went there with my little paper with Kinyarwanda notes on it. The ladies were great today. They did giggle now and then, when my pronunciation wouldn’t be correct. But that’s good actually, we want them to smile, giggle and even laugh out loud now and then, since there are not many places for these women to laugh outside of this mat… do it!
After class they got one hard boiled egg, one glass of milk and one banana. This way they get back some the calories the lost in the yoga practice which they need badly. Cosy it was to sit with them and eat an egg. I like these women!

After class, i got home and remembered that yesterday i promised the guy in the little store at the end of the street, that i would return the Sprite bottle after i finished it. So that’s what i did. What i found very interesting and funny to share was their recycle system.
In Holland we pay something like 25 cents extra for every bottle of drinks we buy. After you finished the bottle, you bring it back to the store and you will get your 25ct back. Fine system, good for the environment, Well here, i found out, they have same kind of system. When i returned the bottle i got back the same amount of money that i paid extra when i bought it, but also the same banknote! The same one with a paper stitched on it. The man of the store had to check the drawer full of banknotes to find mine with a note stitched on it. Funny i thought. Here’s a picture of my note:

Hotel Rwanda

|| Luck is when preparation meets opportunity ||

Opportunity i was given, or was created… preparations are made. I’ts pretty hard to imagine what is going to happen soon and thus, pretty hard to prepare properly. Vaccines, visas and  money, not so hard. Prepare my soul on where i will go, more tough. I am reading about Rwanda, about the history and yesterday i watched this movie again, Hotel Rwanda. Horrible to see the suffering of these people during the Genocide, for both the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s. As the one is slaughtered and the other one feels the need to kill their own kind… mankind. Sad for all of them. And now they’re left with the hangover.

For the survivors, fear and sadness and whatever negative emotion else became a part of them, so big, it would take over their lives. With depression and PTSD as a result. Rwanda, Africa is far away, a small country but they need help. And what could be my contribution? Lucky i feel that i found a way to help. I found this organization Project Air and will work with them this summer, help woman and children cope with their trauma’s trough the art of Yoga.

In this blog i will collect my experiences to inform and hopefully inspire others in anyway. Please read and please leave feedback whenever you feel like it.