Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of the highlights, successes, challenges and key learnings from the launch of the World Spine Care Yoga Project in Botswana this spring. The mission of the WSC Yoga Project is to support the global mission of World Spine Care by empowering individuals in underserved populations to share the practices of yoga.
It started like every teacher training I’ve done, with an icebreaker. Everyone was asked to interview a fellow trainee, ask them these 3 questions and then introduce them to the group:
What’s your name? Where are you from?
And then the “fun” one:
What’s your favorite food?
To this last question, I answered, “ice cream” and my co-trainer, “chocolate.” The trainees had very different responses: “[sourghum]porridge, vegetables, salad.”
Through their answers, I was getting the message that this did not necessarily translate as a “fun” question for them. At our debrief that evening we talked about the idea that perhaps food was not something to be spoken of lightly, or casually. A better question might have been, “What is your favorite childhood memory?”
We sat in a circle and talked about the parameters of the training, the intention of the training was learning how to teach 45-minute classes composed of posture, breath and mindfulness exercises to a population of back care patients that could not get down and up off the ground without pain.
After lunch we gathered again, though not in place we had planned. We planned on being in the kglota, the community meeting space in traditional Botswana villages. It is an open pavilion located in the center of the village and plays a multi-functional role of public meeting space, court of law and more. We thought we had reserved the kglota for the training in the afternoon, but when we arrived there was a meeting taking place, so we quickly arranged for another space to teach. This delayed the training by about an hour, the first of many such delays that we understood were part of the deal with doing this for the first time, and also in a culture with a much looser sense of timing than our Western ideas.
As we led the trainees through a sequence of chair poses, they followed along attentively.
First posture taught was how to sit well in a chair.
Then came breathing and mindfulness exercises.
When we taught the trainees beginning Ujjayi, I noticed that it was almost impossible for them to breathe without moving their whole torso. Breathing in, they would puff their chest up and even shrug their shoulders, breathe out they would collapse their chest completely. Something to work on, but at least they were paying attention to their breathing, right?
The room fell completely silent when we taught the first mindfulness exercise. As someone who has led meditation for years, I can sense when people go inside. They were there. Perhaps it is the rhythm of their daily life, which doesn’t follow the scheduled timings that we do, or just the ability to become present, but they were there, right in the moment. It was an inspiring, profound teaching for us.
A valuable learning for us on the first day was how to say “breathe in” and “breathe out” in Sestwana.
to be continued….
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