Little is more enticing than the prospect of complete relaxation, quite tranquility or peaceful meaningful meditation. Those who live with chronic pain, high blood pressure, digestive disorders, anxiety, arthritis, hypertension and other ailments would gladly do anything therapeutic to ease their suffering.
Yoga whose main purpose is liberation of mind, body and spirit has been known to achieve all the above and more. Yoga originated from India and it encompasses a broad variety of activities purposed to enable one achieve physical, mental wellbeing and spiritual discipline. Among the most well-known and popular types of yoga are Hatha yoga (physical exercises) and Raja yoga (meditation).
Yoga was designedto rejuvenate the body and prolong life by using the physical body to achieve enlightenment. Today, yoga is neither limited to the Asian world nor simply a facet of spiritualism.
Alexandra Huttinger is a yoga instructor and founder of Yego yoga Rwanda. She has been teaching yoga classes in Kigali since 2012. She decided to conduct the classes when she realized there were no yoga lessons offered Kigali. She offers multiple lessons per week for 5000frw per lesson.
“The class is 90 minutes and people can practice yoga in their normal sports attire. Our clientele has mostly been international clients and Rwandans who have had exposure to Yoga in other places and would like to continue the exercises when they return to the country,” she says.
“We are currently six Yoga instructors two of whom are Rwandan. We offer yoga lessons at Inema arts centre and Buranga arts center.” she adds
Why engage in Yoga?
Huttinger explains that Yoga is very beneficial not only because it has a significant sportive aspect to it, but also because it wholesomely ensures mental and emotional wellbeing of people.
‘Yoga is like a massage that starts inside your body and moves outwards. We do different poses that are really specific and offer great benefit to the body. These poses are done in such a way that there is a lot of focus on breath, movement and stillness. When you put all these things together and do so for more than an hour it begins to bring a really constructive look into one’s self,” she said.
“It is quite a challenge to learn to find proper balance and concentration while doing yoga and meditation, but it is also very rewarding in the end. One simply becomes more physically aware and mentally alert. Meditation is a great place not to stop thinking but to stop reacting to thoughts and simply exist,” explains the yoga expert.
Micheal Ngabo a long time yoga practitioner says most people think of yoga as seemingly impossible and see no need to do weirdly twisted and pointless poses. However, he believes Yoga is much more than poses and stillness.
“Yoga for me is all about harmonizing the body with the mind and breath through meditation and other techniques. On a typically stressful day I would run into a bar and hope to relax with a drink in my hand. Well, it worked for a short time but I was back to exhausted in mo time at all,” says Ngabo
“However when I started practicing yoga, I found a much more effective and healthy way not only to relax my mind but also maintain a top shape body physique. I recommend Yoga to anyone who is mindful of leading a healthy and fulfilling life” he adds.
Is yoga for everyone?
Huttinger says that despite the fact that there are false perceptions that yoga is mainly for women, her class has a solid group of Rwandan men who come to take yoga classes.
“Anyone can do yoga because it is really diverse and anyone can find what suites them. I have taught yoga from children to adults, overweight to underweight people, men and women. My oldest student was 87 years old and so Yoga is definitely for everyone who is curious, desires change and wants to be the best versions of themselves,” she says.
Brina Miles is another longtime yoga practitioner. She says yoga for her is a lifestyle choice because she finds within her serenity and peace by shutting of the noise from the rest of the world and listening to her own thoughts.
“Nothing boosts self esteem like yoga. From years of doing yoga I have found within me a kind of confidence that doesn’t compare itself with anyone but pushes me to challenge myself to get better and better in my social and private life.” she says.
“Yoga is not simple at all, in the beginning it’s very brutal because you have to internalize and contemplate your life, face your fears and break wall after wall of emotional garbage we would rather not face. Eventually you learn to embrace who you are and what drives you. People often forget to engage in mental and emotional wellbeing yet it facilitates overall growth of a person. Yoga is the healthy way I have chosen to do so,” adds Miles.
Huttinger also goes on to explain that yoga helps people gain relief from various physical pains like back pain and tension. She adds that yoga is a powerful weapon for those intending to de-stress.
“With Yoga not only does one have less pain, it also helps one to be aware of any sort of discomfort and that’s the first step towards solving it. Yoga is important into bringing mindfulness into how we treat our bodies and how we can learn to take care of them more.” she says.
“Yoga isn’t the kind of exercise that has you feeling great for just about 30 minutes but with consistency doing it, one begins to experience a transformation and mental clarity and that is a really powerful thing for personal development and overall growth.” Huttinger adds.
Historically Yoga was primarily used spiritually, Huntinger explains that the tradition of yoga is kind of code of ethics and philosophy where people are taught concepts such as non violence and not creating harm either for yourself or other people among others.
“Yoga in spiritual terms is very broad and it transcends and resonates with so many cultures in what it teaches to do and not to do. It encourages mental and physical cleanliness, and learning not to react negatively to whatever we are delt with in life,” she says.
She adds that her motivation lies in a quote by ancient yoga master Patanjali which says “Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked.”
She further encourages people to engage in yoga because it helps them find themselves and discover ease in terms of mind and body.
“Yoga humble you because it challenges you, it takes discipline and hard work just like any good thing in life. It’s a process towards leaning to be gentle to one’s self but the process to do so itself is very challenging,” says Huttinger.
“Yoga helps you find beauty of feeling good in your body without anything else except for the focus on the present moment and being comfortable and calm which is a very joyful experience.” she concludes.