22 June 2019 was the fourth annual International Day of Yoga event held in Cape Town, and it was a wonderful success! And so it is a good time for us to honour our fifth Earthchild Project Yoga Ambassador – Joëlle Sleebos.
Joëlle’s passion for health and well-being started 17 years as a group fitness instructor and Joelle is now a Yogi, Traveler, Personal Trainer, Entrepreneur and Project Manager.
Joëlle teaches and hosts yoga retreats in Europe, South Africa and Bali. Her classes are fun, powerful and energetic. Joëlle has studied with Joey Miles (Purple Valley Ashtanga), Daniel Aaron (Radiantly Alive Vinyasa), Dave Porter (The Yogalife Vinyasa). She has supported Earthchild Project through numerous events and fundraisers, and has connected our organisation with so many people and partners, that her support and passion to help ECP is a gift that keeps on giving in many ways.
How did your yoga journey begin? Was it love at first Asana?
My very first yoga class was in Australia in 2007 in a gym. Back then I was a fanatic high intensity fitness lover. Little did I know that that was about to change. I have always been passionate about people’s health and well-being. While studying Economy in Amsterdam, I had a side-job as an aerobic instructor. For 8 years I combined a corporate career and a career as an instructor. In 2012 I took a brave decision and decided to leave my financially corporate life and start working as a self-employed personal trainer and yoga instructor.
Yoga is much more than a form of exercise and even more than a tool for personal growth – what does the journey of yoga mean to you?
Initially I did yoga as a supplement for my other weight and cardio type of exercises. I realized that every time I did yoga my body felt like it had ‘re-charged’ its battery. I also felt more aware of my posture and it seemed to avoid injuries. Now I can say yoga is everything to me and I am so grateful for the gift of yoga in my life. I practice daily, I met my husband at a yoga studio in Bali, most of my friends are yogis and I love hosting yoga retreats around the world. Yoga to me means CONNECTION. Re-connection with oneself, connecting authentically and with love with other and simply sharing and celebrating life in an inclusive loving way.
As a busy yoga instructor juggling many balls, how do you find time for your own practice while still doing private lessons, running retreats etc?
I feel my practice makes me a better version of myself, helps me regulate and therefore hopefully also makes me a better friend, wife and teacher. It is essential for me to make this time for myself. Luckily I am around different studios all day long, so it is just a matter of planning. This is the same for everybody….If you say “ I will do yoga when I have a gap in my diary, it will not happen” ;-)
Can you tell us a little more about Dharma Project and International Day of Yoga (IDY)?
Dharma means giving back. It also means Purpose. Yoga is all about union, connection and inclusivity to me. If we all give back in our own way, we grow stronger together. We all have our own strength, skills and talents and it is a privilege to share them with each other and help each other grow. During my YTT in Bali in 2016 we were asked to create a Dharma Project. While meditating the idea came to me to host an International Day of Yoga in Cape Town as it did not exist yet. I would have never dreamt it would become a reoccurring yearly event with so many volunteers, companies and brands collectively giving back.
The objective of International Day of Yoga is:
- To celebrate the gift of yoga
- To unite the yoga community
- Give access to yoga to people that normally do not have access
- Raise funds for ECP
Please tell us a bit about your involvement with Earthchild Project thus far and how this has impacted you.
I first got to know ECP through IDY in 2016, as I was looking for a yoga related NGO to raise funds for. I have fallen in love with the work ECP does and am now a proud ambassador. I am not from South Africa myself. I grew up in the Netherlands – a well-organised safe place and in a family with love and support. It is often very hard to see all the suffering in the country. ECP brings hope, self-confidence and mostly joy and love to people and places where this is not the norm. It is also not easy to go to townships and I am happy I have had the opportunity to connect with kids and people living in the same country but under such different circumstances.
I love Whitney Houston’s songs: Greatest love of all which starts with:
I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be
Why do you believe that yoga is important for children from under resourced and disadvantaged communities?
All kids benefit from yoga. This has been scientifically proven. As yoga is more than exercise and relates to self-love, discipline, union and INCLUSIVITY it teaches kids norms and values they might know about at home. I also love how the kids learn about mother earth.
What does Seva mean to you and how does it fit into your understanding of yoga?
Seva is service. I personally love serving others, but we can only do this if we also serve ourselves. This is sometimes challenging. My former life and career was focused on individual growth, money and was very competitive. I now spend my days giving and serving others. Through yoga I have received more than I could have dreamt for and it serves me so much more than my old life. Together we grow, so serving each other is necessary.
My intentions for life:
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
To read more about what Joëlle offers, her retreat dates and to learn about The Dharma Project, visit her website https://www.joellesleebos.com/
Stay tuned to read our next blog which is all about the IDY2019 event held in Cape Town!