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Township Yogi

Photographer: Kim Ludbrook


In the township where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote after being released from prison and where Gandhi lived before moving to India, the ancient spiritual practice of yoga is changing lives for many residents through the work of the Township Yogi project.


Established by Durban based established yoga teachers including yogi Elle Mathews, the project has brought yoga to the poor Zulu communities in the township nearby Durban on South Africa's East Coast.


As yoga grows throughout the western world, yoga resonates with those practicing it in the township because of the fact that it offers a mental and physical relief from the hardships of daily living.


For the vast majority of the people practicing in the township their Zulu tribal and Christian backgrounds are clear but they are accepting yoga and its karma with open arms, much to the interest of others who often come to watch classes. One of the Township Yogi teachers, Kenneth Qamata, said after graduating from his yoga teacher's course, 'Jesus must have been a good yogi.'


To date, the Township Yogi project has taught four yoga teachers and they are now teaching a vast cross section of yoga students for free in community halls in Inanda including the young, elderly, male, and female.


Meanwhile, young yogi Zweli practices his yoga with Township Yogi teacher Qamata outside his house and said,' I live here, but my mind does not.'


The yogis of Inanda Township will be heard chanting 'OM' for years to come.