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


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: