The synergy between mindfulness and medicine – words from an Earthchild Project volunteer

Naomi Heller is a volunteer with Earthchild Project. She is a doctor by profession, working in paediatrics with an interest in paediatric palliative medicine (this is an area of medicine focusing on children and families of children coping with life limiting and life threatening disease). Her long term aim is to incorporate yoga into this area of healthcare and work with children, siblings and families managing medical symptoms, grief and emotional trauma.

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Earthchild Project Ambassador Spotlight – Melissa Brake and Erin Sprong

Over the years, there have been a number of really special yoga teachers who have dedicated a lot of time and energy into supporting Earthchild Project and being a driving force behind the work that we do. In order to honour these people, we have initiated an Earthchild Project Ambassador Programme. And we are proud to introduce you to our second and third ambassador, Melissa Brake and Erin Sprong. Melissa owns Yogaway Yoga studio in Newlands where both her and Erin teach. These two incredible women have selflessly been dedicated to teaching Monday yoga classes in Khayelitsha for many years and their motivation has never wavered.

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EARTHCHILD PROJECT AMBASSADOR SPOTLIGHT – SCHALK VILJOEN

Over the years, there have been a number of really special yoga teachers who have dedicated a lot of time and energy into supporting Earthchild Project and being a driving force behind the work that we do. In order to honour these people, we have initiated an Earthchild Project Ambassador Programme. And we are proud to introduce you to our first ambassador, Schalk Viljoen. Schalk teaches Jivamukti classes in the Darmstadt, Mainz, Frankfurt & Basel area of Germany. We caught up with Schalk to find out more about his yoga journey and why he cares so much about Earthchild Project.

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The Earthchild Project 3rd annual Teachers Wellness Convention

Earthchild Projects’ 3rd annual Teachers Wellness Convention was held on Saturday 24 February 2018, and it was a huge success. With workshops ranging from healthy cooking demo’s to stress management, hormone balancing techniques, water saving tips and advice on how to follow your purpose and passion, the day was packed with wellness and holistic living education.

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Waste-Free Solutions in Yoga

I will admit – in the yoga world, practitioners are for the most part, simply trying to practice self-love and care for other living beings – this is after all, the spiritual ethos of yoga – to “do no harm.” We’re doing the best we can in using yoga for health and goodness. Right?

We could do better. First of all, we can start the painful journey of looking inward and realizing that most of us are, to a certain extent, hypocrites in our yoga world bubble. When we begin our yoga class, we sit our toned bums (thanks yoga!), dressed in plastic material, on our PVC mats. Our practice of yoga is at the heart of our good health – and yet in the first few seconds of our daily practice we are breaking some SERIOUS health rules, not to mention the spiritual ethos of yoga – to “do no harm.”

Not only our clothes, but also the very physical foundations on which we practice are doing monumental harm. I’m talking about our mats. The more I research, the more disturbed I’ve become. Most yoga mats are made from PVC, short for polymerizing vinyl chloride. Simply typing that word – “chloride” – makes me think of that new mat smell – and subsequently feel a bit ill at all the times I’ve deeply inhaled it. Not only are PVC mats bad for our own health, the production of this material can be deadly for others. Yes, you read that right. PVC plants pump an excruciating amount of vinyl chloride into the atmosphere. When its entire life-cycle is considered, PVC releases more cancer-causing dioxins into the atmosphere than any other product. Each kg of PVC requires about 17kg of abiotic materials, mostly petrochemicals, as well as 680 liters of water and 11.6 kg of air (which of course is converted into greenhouse gases). PVC plants contaminate water around their facilities, causing serious damage on whole communities – most commonly increased risk of cancer and reproductive damage. All this so that your yoga mat can later go sit in a landfill for the rest of time. Woohoo!

Sorry guys. This is all quite depressing I know. Depressing but also crucial to meditate on when we consider our impact on the lives of others and our Mother Earth. But let’s cut to the positive part shall we? In terms of sustainable yoga mats, there is an increasing plethora of options out there. There are several companies completely dedicated to eco-friendly mats – most made from natural rubber from rubber trees, jute (a natural fiber), organic cotton, or thermoplastic elastomer (synthetic BUT has high potential for recyclability and uses less energy to manufacture). We have got to commend these brands for really trying to find a more sustainable options for our beloved mats. However, what if you could kill two birds with one stone?

Anna and Sophie, the founders of hejhej-mats, are doing just that. These two young women have managed to create a closed-loop, fully sustainable yoga mat – creating a healthy sustainable mat that ALSO uses old waste. Most of us are slowly waking up to the reality of waste on our planet – the landfills, the islands made entirely of trash. The hejhej goal: to create a mat in which the production alleviates the excessive exhaustion of resources. No new materials, only the use of old waste – “thereby tackling the problem of waste production and resource scarcity of our planet.” While other sustainable mats are still using natural rubber – which requires cutting down rubber trees – hejhej-mats makes use of one of our planet’s increasingly growing resource – waste itself. Completely closed-loop, hejhej-mats are made from waste, used long-term, recyclable, and then used for production again. What’s also great about their mats? They’re functional (not missing that much-needed slip resistance that many sustainable mats lack), and also quite beautiful. Because they are made from varying types of waste, each mat differs slightly in its appearance, making each unique.

When we sat down with Anna last week, the crowdfunding campaign for the production of hejhej-mats had just met its initial goal that morning. When we asked her about the conceptualization of hejhej mats, she told us of her and Sophie’s completion of their Masters in Leadership for Sustainability in Sweden (not only charming but intelligent too!) as well as their visit to an exhibition by Turkish artist, Pinar Yolda. Yolda’s artwork accused yoga practitioners of acting hypocritically since most of them practice yoga on unsustainable plastic mats, which end up in oceans or landfills. The exhibition impacted the two women, and they immediately set to work with the conceptualization of the circular hejhej-mat. Talking to her over coffee made it obvious to me how passionate and driven these two young German women were. You know those people whose entrepreneurial spirit captivates you and makes you want to jump onto their boat? Anna and Sophie are that.

I’m excited for where hejhej-mats will go. I’m inspired, and jumping onto that ship. Or I guess in this case, a hejhej-mat.

Go check them out on their website or crowdfunding page to donate, support, or simply learn more about hejhej-mats and sustainable closed-loop designs.

https://hejhej-mats.com

https://www.startnext.com/en/hejhej-mats-closed-loop-yoga-mats 

Connecting souls across cultures through yoga

@adidasZA
@adidasWomen
@chelseykorus
@cliopajczer
Photos by Niquita Bento: @xx_niquita_xx

It was such a joyful pleasure and privilege last week to be connected to three international yogis – Adriene Mishler, Clio Pajczer, and Chelsey Korus. To be able to host these three beautiful women was humbling and genuinely made for a really fun Friday! In partnership with adidas, these women made the trip halfway across the world to check out Earthchild Project’s work and to do some yoga with our Earthchildren in Kkayelitsha.

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Mindfulness Activities for Children

We are well aware that there is much evidence out there that proves the benefits of mindfulness for children. But we are equally aware of the challenges that come with trying to implement that mindfulness in the chaotic classroom and often hectic home. So, in order to assist, we’ve scoured the web for some resources and tips that offer excellent methods for child mindfulness that are sure to make being present for children a little bit more fun and, well…mindful.

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In the Heads of Our Living Classroom Teachers: Vuyelwa Rola

This charismatic woman, Vuyelwa Rola, does not leave anyone untouched. She truly has the power of words and she proved this during our interview at Yomelela Primary, where Vuyelwa is a teacher. We sat on two chairs in the school’s beautiful garden that is run by local “mamas”. So much beauty around us with all leafy greens sprouting and so much beauty in Vuyelwa’s Earthchild Project story.

“The society we’re in, it’s a society that has a lot of noise…The children come from homes that are abusive so when they are with Earthchild Project they really feel calm, they really feel different.” – Vuyelwa Rola

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Earthchild Spotlight: Sonwabile Tafeni

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Last but not least, our Earthchild Spotlight number ten is Sonwabile Tafeni who is 16 years old and a former student at Sakumlandela Primary School in Khayelitsha. Sonwabile is an engaged yogi, hardworking high school student, and a committed Earthchild alumni. She keeps inspiring me with her personality and engagements and I’ve had the great fortune to meet her a handful of times throughout my past three months in Cape Town. Sonwabile is only 16, but she speaks with such depth and her eyes are clearly set on a bright future for herself and her community.

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Honouring our Earthchild Project Activists

Whether it be two young cousins from Cape Town selling coffee outside their school, an avid hiker from Johannesburg who decided to dedicate climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds, or even three young ladies from America who set a goal to sponsor 150 yoga mats; our activists know how to make things happen! We are so grateful for the support we received from these incredible women in 2016, that we wanted to honour them for their successful Activist Projects.

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EARTHCHILD SPOTLIGHT: BEYONCE SWARTZ

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Our Earthchild Spotlight number nine is Beyonce Swartz who is 12 years old at Hillwood Primary School in Lavendar Hill. When our Lavender Hill facilitator, Linci, brought Beyonce to be interviewed, she couldn’t believe how shy and quiet the normally bubbly girl had become. But once the recorder was turned off and the camera came out, Beyonce transformed into someone that enjoys the spotlight as much as her namesake!

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Earthchild Spotlight: Katlego Shaloma

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Our Earthchild Spotlight number eight is Katlego Shaloma who is 11 years old and in Grade 6 at Sakumlandela Primary School in Khayelitsha. Each time that I have joined the Eco-Warrior Club in Khayelitsha, Katlego has been present and shown herself to be eager to learn. She also has some wild and unruly energy shining through her eyes. You will notice her from a distance, she is definitely something special.

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Earthchild Spotlight: Chriswin Christians

In honor of our 10-year anniversary, we are highlighting 10 remarkable Earthchildren from the past and present. Our Earthchild Spotlight number four is Chriswan Christians who is 10 years old and in Grade 4 at Hillwood Primary School in Lavender Hill. More than just a beautiful name and an absolutely charming face, Chriswan is a bright young student who realises the value of the environment in his life and the need to keep it safe for future generations. Such young eco-warriors continue to inspire us in our work and daily lives.

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