Teaching a Yoga Internship in South Africa to a Community in Need
By Moira Callahan
Yoga is a centuries old practice stemming from ancient India, focusing on connecting the mind and body. The ancient practice has a host of physical benefits such as improving strength, balance, flexibility, sleep, and even relieving some pain, according to the John Hopkins Medicine website. And, like other forms of exercise, it can decrease stress and improve the connection between mind and body. What if you could take all the benefits of yoga to communities that are truly in need with the help of our partner, Project Ubuntu? This partner is a social development organization operating in a township on the outskirts of Cape Town. During your yoga internship in South Africa with Project Ubuntu, you’ll provide adults and children a healthy way to channel their energy.
Masiphumelele is a township on the coast of South Africa. While initially only being known as Site 5, the citizens renamed the site Masiphumelele, which means “let us succeed.” However, success is ultimately elusive for the townspeople due to the many social and economic obstacles in front of them. Their schools are overcrowded, and food insecurity, unemployment, and crime rates are high. This is a township already in need, and these were the conditions before COVID-19 began. We interviewed Candi Morgan, the leader of this new yoga initiative within Project Ubuntu for further information.
COVID-19 has only highlighted the poor economic problems, primarily food insecurity and poverty, according to Morgan. Imagine doing a quarantine lockdown in a small shack with four other people, while having to go outside to do anything. It’s heartbreaking that their living conditions restrict how safe families can be from the virus. In addition, quarantine lockdown forced women to take the lead in supporting their communities and families. As leaders in the community kitchens, these women were “feeding 10,000 people a day,” Morgan adds.
Unfortunately, burnout is very common among community workers. Thus far, women and children are the most vulnerable, and therefore the main focus of this initiative. Due to the high crime rate, young children are at risk for gangsterism as well as drug and alcohol addiction. Entire households are feeling increased pressure due to food, water, and electricity skyrocketing in price. All of these factors equates to increased cases of diabetes, high blood pressure, and most obviously, stress.
Fortunately, relieving stress is one of the key benefits of practicing yoga. Through guided meditation and stress release techniques, yoga recipients can work on the mind-body connection. If you carry stress by clenching your shoulders, yoga is an excellent way to be able to locate that sensation and release the tension. Children are able to channel their energy into healthy exercise as an alternative to slipping down a road of addiction, disease, and violence.
As the matriarchs of the household, women are experiencing higher stress levels, as they continue supporting their families and their communities. “[Women] are in need of self care techniques that will give them more energy or help them sustain their existing energy to enable them to continue their work in uplifting their communities,” Horgan adds.
Combining yoga practice with the betterment of local communities is where the Yoga Shala Center comes in. “The Yoga Shala Center is not a retreat… but rather a practical working space, where we are able to offer various programs to benefit and uplift communities through sharing of resources and knowledge,” Horgan elaborates. One of the most important aspects to the yoga classes is that they are completely free. Given the added strain of COVID-19, it’s never been more important that this kind of exercise therapy is accessible to the public. The program, she says, is the perfect opportunity to blend yogic core beliefs with acts of service.
Yoga Shala’s current intern, Leonie Bruckner, has made amazing strides in running a holistic program for women and children. She runs yoga and meditation classes for an hour and a half on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On a normal day, Leonie “prepares the room for a treatment, and then I make some self love and healing retreats for whoever wants to come here. There are many women coming from the towns, and from other projects. I do guided meditation and yoga, and we always have some tea and a hand bath. We also go into the experience of the elements of the world, and always do an aura healing with some essential oils. We finish with a deep self love and connection meditation.” Leonie is excited to continue to work with women, and recently enjoyed teaching a small group of teenagers.
As a key player in this program like Leonie, you will help develop the nonprofit yoga initiative by teaching and organizing classes, teaching meditation (if you have experience), and potentially assisting with communications or fundraising. As an instructor, you will add experience to your resume, travel internationally, and gain teaching hours, all of which are valuable resume builders for your future career. More importantly, not only will you be teaching yoga, but you will truly be improving the day-to-day lives of women and children in need. If yoga and social good is something that you’re passionate about, then we definitely want you to apply to this yoga internship in South Africa.
We would be honored to have you at our yoga internship in South Africa if:
- You have experience teaching yoga (and/or meditation)
- You want to work in a culturally different environment
- You like to work independently
- You have a passion for developing this initiative
- You have a deep want to effect change
Images by Anna Lusty
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