During dark and rainy days in Amsterdam, I felt the desire to go back to Tofo in Mozambique, where I had taught Yoga in 2014 and I decided to go back in 2017. Teaching Yoga abroad had been such a wonderful experience back then that I felt the urge to go back. In this blog I’d like to share with you what lessons I learnt from my recent – Travel, Live and Work abroad – trip in Africa. My message? Never underestimate the power of your gesture.
Yoga classes for free
When I taught Yoga in Tofo, Mozambique in 2014 I found out that most guest- and residential Yoga teachers, had only aimed their classes at the expats and tourists in the village. Nobody had offered the local Mozambicans to join. So I made it my goal to make sure that these people would be able to attend at least once a week. I thus asked the staff at the retreat center to join my Yoga classes for free. This meant that they had to sneak away from work to fit in half an hour of Yoga into their long working hours. After work they just wanted to eat & sleep.
From being an alcoholic to becoming a Yogi
These weekly free community Yoga classes became a success in the sense that one student, Cesar continued practicing after I left Mozambique. He inspired another Mozambican friend, Stelio to join him. Stelio changed his whole life around after he started committing to a daily Yoga practice. He went from being an alcoholic on the streets of Inhambane to becoming a Yogi. Now the story only gets better.
Mozambican Yoga teachers
Cesar and Stelio eventually were invited to follow a Yoga Teacher Training at the retreat center by the owner. This is a request I had made at the time for Cesar and she kept her promise. The two men paid for the retreat by exchanging skills. This way Cesar and Stelio became the first Mozambican Yoga teachers of the touristy village of Tofo.
Community Yoga Classes
After all of that had happened Stelio contacted me via Facebook. Up to then I didn’t even know what had happened. He gave a shout out on Facebook and thanked me for what I had started in Tofo: Community Yoga Classes. What I learnt here is what Stelio told me: “Never underestimate the power of your gesture!”. Like he told me when we eventually met for a drink in Maputo in 2017: “I am now a Yoga teacher, because of that community Yoga class that you once started in 2014 before you left Africa!”. Stelio is a true example of someone with an ambition. He teaches Yoga in Maputo and he works as a sushi chef, another dreams of his.
Taking care of each other
I made it my mission in 2014 to offer free classes to the locals. The way I saw it is that the fees expats and tourists paid, would allow me to also invite people in for free. Basically this way we were all taking care of each other. Why for free for the locals only? Mozambicans earn about a 25 up to a 100 Euros per month for a more than full-time workweek. They don’t get paid for extra hours outside their contracts. Free classes for locals are thus a very welcome gift.
What I realized in 2017, is that it would be a good idea to make all my Yoga classes available for the locals. They work long hours and they only have one day off per week, if they have this one off at all. They can’t attend a weekly class once a week at a set time. It is best to let them know they can attend whatever class you have got on your schedule. Also, in case they’d like to contribute, let them pay. They then feel more empowered too. Armando, one of the local students told me: “People would like to pay and contribute. Let them pay a donation”.
“Really, can I join for free? It is my dream to practice Yoga!”.
Last but not least, the best way to contact them too is by going around town and introducing yourself. Africans especially love talking and I noticed that they were often thrilled and excited when I told them that they could attend classes for free or for a small contribution. I would even have accepted a fresh coconut as payment. Why? Following Yoga classes is a new opportunity for them. It is a chance for them to learn a new skill and it is a very welcome break from work. Like one guy said to me: “Really, can I join for free? It is my dream to practice Yoga!”.
How to slow down? Simply take a break and do Yin Yoga.
Sit still. Stretch. Breathe. Continue.
Yin Yoga with Marianne
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