Last September, I moved to Cape Town and soon afterward began working and practicing at The Shala Yoga Studio. Although I had always been interested in yoga, it was here that I engendered a relationship with it, as my practice reached new heights and began to lead me down a new, beautiful life path. Through yoga, I learned new skills and adopted new routines that allowed me to grow as an individual. Most importantly, The Shala introduced me to the Earthchild Project, allowing me to share my love for yoga in a most rewarding way. What better method to empower the youth than through a lifelong journey that evokes personal exploration and validates the sense of self?
I had my doubts driving into Khayelitsha my first day with the Earthchild Project, questioning how young children could buy into something as far fetched as yoga. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The children were willing and eager to take part in the yoga and meditation being taught. I believe that this mentality has much to do with the fact that these children had no preconceptions of what “yoga” meant. Unlike many children in the West, the kids in Khayelitsha had never heard of yoga, and were thus able to form their own opinions on it.
While with Earthchild, I have had the pleasure of following and facilitating Noks – an active and well-respected member of the Khayelitsha community. During my first few weeks with her, I sat back and admired the presence she held while teaching her students and spreading her love for yoga. Since then, Noks and I have established a co-teaching approach, allowing me to simultaneously learn from and work alongside Noks, all the while developing relationships with the children in and around the community.
Noks begins each class with a lesson taught in Xhosa. These lessons may range from the Law of Attraction to the most recent acts of Xenophobia taking place throughout South Africa. Often times, her lessons are discussion-based, allowing the students to share personal stories and receive feedback. Following the lesson we move into a guided yoga and meditation practice that is taught in English by myself. The shift in language allows the children to practice their English whilst receiving the benefits of yoga and meditation. Moreover, for many students, I am the first white person that they have ever interacted with. I believe that through the practice of yoga in local townships we can begin to bridge the gap between varying cultures, thus inspiring the yogic notion of oneness and equality amongst all beings.
Of all of the wonderful moments that take part during our classes, my favorite time of the day is when the children take Shavasana. During this time, the students are able to fully relax and remove themselves from their frenzied environments, if for no more than a fleeting moment. Noks and I then go around the room and receive the children with nurturing hands. Whether it be by squeezing their toes or holding their hands, we always receive a smile in return. To me, this demonstrates the effect that these small gestures can have on a child who does not often feel the humble beauty found in human contact and love. Following class, it is clear through the children’s behavior that a state of higher relaxation has been gained. Both Noks and I encourage the children to see their own beauty throughout the duration of class. I truly believe that the yoga enables the students to think for themselves and empowers them to make their own decisions by better understanding the inner power they each hold.
Through spreading the love of yoga we are able to open the minds of these young children and relinquish the dualities that they possess at such an early age. The Earthchild Project is an extraordinary example of the selfless beauty found in our world, and I feel so extremely blessed to be a part of it. Noks has taught me invaluable life lessons. Simply observing her brilliance and dedication to these students has inspired me to follow a career in holistic education.
Ellie Kraus is an Earthchild Project volunteer who’s work with our team in Khayelitsha has been life changing, for our children and the staff who’s lives she’s changed. We’re eternally grateful to the support and learning that volunteers like Ellie bring to our program. Thank you Ellie for sharing the love!
Just R200 provides one child with weekly yoga lessons for a year. See how you can Share the Love!