Power of Yoga

Our second week in Ghana was jam packed. After spending the first week immersing ourselves in the culture and planning our workshops it was time to make all of that preparation come to life.

We spent a long time planning this trip and these workshops but what I didn’t realise was just how profound the impact of sharing yoga would be. After our first day at Sowers and Meyah, we weren’t sure how much the children would remember, or if they would take anything away with them from the workshops we had done. When we went back to Meyah the next day, we could see the children on the playground playing 1, 2, 3 Yoga (like Grandmother’s footsteps but you hold yoga poses instead of freezing and standing still, lots and lots of fun!) and teaching their friends. When we would see the same class for the second session we were so amazed by how much they remembered from the sessions; the names of the poses, the union of mind, body and breath at the core of the practice and where yoga comes from. I loved being able to see the power of yoga at work, seeing the children excited about learning the names of new poses, doing partner work and being able to see possibility in their own abilities and in one another, and the presence and focus in the games we played with them. One of my highlights was seeing the power of pranayama (breathwork) at play. We bought a breathing ball over with us to use with the kids to use as a visual focus, the ball expands as you inhale and then shrinks when you exhale and the group has to breathe together. The breathing ball wound up being a huge hit with the kids (and adults too!) and we’re looking to fundraise to get breathing balls for some of the classrooms at the schools to use. I was amazed to really see the power of focusing on the breath at enabling the children to find some calm and some stillness, it was really incredible to witness.

On the Tuesday after school we taught a mindfulness session to some local schoolteachers and we were really grateful to have a great turn out of teachers taking the time to come and allow us to share some simple mindfulness techniques that they could use in their classrooms. We taught them three breathing techniques, and two meditations that they could use in their classrooms and it was wonderful to see them experience the power of these techniques first hand.

Each time we went back to the schools we were greeted with very warm welcomes from the children, lots of hugs, smiles and demonstrations of which yoga poses they’d remembered which made leaving very difficult! What I loved about working with the schools is how receptive and curious the children were; it was really special to see how fun yoga can be through the eyes of a child; it’s easy to get caught up in the discipline of the practice as an adult, and whilst it’s an important part, the children were wonderful teachers themselves in teaching us the joy of experiencing movement and breath in the body. I think what I loved most were the savasanas with the kids. We did a magic carpet savasana where we asked the children to visualise that their yoga mat was a magic carpet flying them up over the school, over Medie, over Ghana, over Africa and to wherever they wanted to go in the world with all of their favourite people and it was so wonderful to see them relax into it and to see even the most excitable of children finding some stillness and quiet. The other savasana which I loved being a part of was one where we got the children to build a snake by lying down with another person’s head on their belly until we had a long line of sleeping children, and I was so happy that I got to be in that savasana, I was grinning from ear to ear!

Friday and Saturday saw us running a teacher training taster with participants of various experiences and backgrounds. We set ourselves the aim to have everyone teaching Sun A and Sun B by the end of the two days, but the students stepped up and surpassed our expectations and as a team each taught sections to teach a complete class which we invited other people from the DMC to attend. What was really incredible about this, was to see the students’ courage in delivering something that to some of them was fairly new. We asked a lot of them in two days, both in terms of learning practical material but also in reflecting on their own experiences and knowledge of the practice. We left them with projects to work on, that if they wanted to continue with sharing they could teach in their communities, whether in schools or to friends and neighbours in the hope that they could share their own knowledge and the magic of yoga.

Whilst we were facilitators and teachers in this process, I walked away from this humbled and feeling like a student. I learned so much from teaching, I learned from Barbara and her wealth of knowledge when it comes to teaching children and facilitating, I learned from the Move The World team about my values and how they shape what I do, and how meaning affects what I deliver. I learned from the Ghanaian team about connection and courage, how willing they were to step up and teach sections of the kids yoga sessions, and how collaborative and supportive they were. And most of all, I learned from everyone we taught. From the children I learned the joy of being present in the practice, the fun of experiencing your body and breath as it is, from the adults I learned courage and curiosity and a willingness to dive into something new. I loved seeing everyone at the DMC joining us for self practice at 6.30am every morning, it was a testament to the power and magic of yoga, to the impact it has on people’s lives no matter how long they’ve been practicing or where they’re at in their life. I’ve always said that yoga is for everyone, and this experience really made me believe it. We are leaving Ghana with very full hearts, it really feels like a second home, I am still so bowled over with how welcoming and warm everyone was, and we leave with hopes to return again soon to share more, and also to nail all the dance moves of the Kpolongo!

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