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. Over the last year, Schalk has provided 112 little yogis with weekly yoga lessons for an entire year. Amazing! We caught up with Schalk to find out more about his yoga journey and why he cares so much about Earthchild Project.
When (and how) did your yoga journey begin?
I started practising yoga when I moved to Germany from South Africa in 2000. All the classes were in German and I spoke no German. Challenges all around … but I loved it.
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?
Yoga provides me with a philosophical framework for my life. E.g. How I relate to others (people, animals, the Earth), how I relate to myself and my personal relationship with the Divine.
You’re a yoga instructor, but you also work in digital marketing which is a high energy and competitive work environment. How do you find balance between the two and is it easy to move from one to the other?
I went through a phase where I only wanted to do yoga and found working in the corporate world frustrating and shallow. (I) then attended a workshop with David Life, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga in 2010. David reminded us that as yogis, we are IN this world. And that we have a responsibility to those we spend our time with. When we are practising yoga, we need to be 100% on our mats. When we are at home we need to be 100% with our family, and when we are work we need to be 100% with our colleagues.
We need to immerse ourselves in what we are doing. I realized that I have been short changing especially my work environment and started to change my attitude. The results? I recommitted to my job and colleagues and changed my attitude from what work can do for me, to what can I do for my colleagues and company. I started to get really interesting projects and now love what I do.
How did you learn about Earthchild Project and what inspired you to get involved?
Jules Febre, one of Jivamukti’s most inspiring teachers, was visiting South Africa and met Earthchild. Knowing that I am South African, he provided the introductions to Janna and Earthchild.
Please tell us a bit about your involvement with Earthchild Project thus far and how this has impacted you?
I run regular workshops where we do fundraising for Earthchild. By raising the profile of Earthchild, individuals and organizations have also stepped up and made contributions. Working with Earthchild gives me an opportunity to raise the visibility of a very special project in my home country and city. I grew up in Parow, a suburb of Cape Town. It makes me feel connected to my roots.
Why do you believe that yoga is important for children from under resourced and disadvantaged communities?
Yoga provides a framework for learning about yourself and your relationship with others. There is no more important gift you can provide a child of any background. Yoga does not require a big investment in infrastructure. You need a bit of space, an inspiring teacher and an open mind.
What does Seva Yoga or being of service mean to you and how does it fit into your understanding of yoga?
Being of service to others provides my life with focus and meaning. Yoga means ‘union’, being as one. No separation. How could one then NOT serve others?
If you could only do one yoga pose a day, what would it be and why? Here’s what Sonwabise (one of our Alumni) had to say “My favorite yoga position is the Eagle Pose because you have to find balance by keeping your eye on one point. It’s the same for living your life, if you don’t focus on one point you lose your balance and become confused.”
All of the beautiful shapes we take and the transitions between them, prepares us for meditation. In the beginning it is really difficult to sit quietly with yourself. As time goes by, these moment become more and more precious. So I would say any meditation seat is my favourite.