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Yoga brings hope to the township

Photographer: Kim Ludbrook


Om, shanti shanti shanti. Peace, peace, peace.


In the heart of one of Johannesburg's toughest townships the ancient spiritual practice of yoga is bringing peace and calmness to some of the thousands of children and teenagers brought up in an environment of crushing poverty, crime and post-Apartheid social imbalance.


Yoga4Alex, founded by Marianne Felix, is an NGO that has taught 5 local Alex township residents the Kundalini Yoga style and these young pioneers have brought the healing nature of yoga to various schools in the township.


Alexandra township, in Johannesburg, South Africa, or 'Alex' as it is known to dwellers in the urban living area - is one of the main townships on the edges of the capital and was built in the early 1900s to house non-white residents. Townships like Alex, Diepsloot and the more widely known Soweto (an English syllabic abbreviation for South Western Townships) were built outside the main white areas as a cornerstone of the country’s controversial Apartheid policy.


The journey of the local Alex teachers, Bongekile Nguza, Sindiso Moyo and Dipou Smith, is a fascinating example of how the hugely popular spiritual practice of yoga has moved from India, approx. 100 years ago, to most countries in Western society and is now crossing cultural boundaries in Africa and has found its healing aspects accepted by African children brought up with Christian and tribal spiritual practices.


Kundalini is a school of yoga that derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energies through regular practice of meditation, asana, mantra and pranayama. Called by practitioners ‘the yoga of awareness’, it aims ‘to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others’.


The young teachers are bringing yoga to the 2,000 school children in the area with very positive results and are all striving to help the children of their township with the ancient spiritual practice.


The aim of Yoga4Alex is to ultimately help the learners reach their personal goals and their full potential by bringing stability into their lives.


Meanwhile Dipou Smith hopes one day to start her own yoga studio in Alex and also help the elderly with her knowledge of yoga.


Namaste. (The light in me sees the light in you).