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Yoga4Alex: A Story of Generosity and Gratitude

Yoga4Alex is a registered NPO that encourages youngsters in Alexandra township to use Kundalini Yoga as a technique to overcome the challenges that prevent them from realizing their goals. They received a $1,000 Live to Give Grant in 2017. 

By Pavan Kamal / Marianne Felix

The money we received for Yoga4Alex from the 2017 Live to Give Award was used to take high school children and young adults to South Africa’s Spring Kundalini Yoga Festival (SKY).

Every cent went towards that decision because I believe strongly in the powerful energy created when a large group of people do yoga together. More than anything I wanted young people from Alex to share in it.

The money allowed me to hire a bus that could seat 65 young people. Seventy-one people came because I made two trips with my car allowing 6 more to come. I was nervous but the yogic community embraced the group from Alex.

I had not anticipated the pull of peaceful surroundings, empty spaces and the presence of the pool. But they could explore the grounds and swim with caring eyes and supportive hands holding them.

One child remarked that he had never seen stars in the sky like he saw them during that weekend. The other that she loved walking in the dark and feeling safe. They helped in the kitchen and participated in the kiddies program.

All in all it was a new and challenging and worthwhile experience for those from Alex and those not from Alex.

For this year's SKY Fest, Cathy Das Kaur Dwyer, Dalene Dhanwant Pierini, and Aumji are beautiful people who have created a structure with 3HO South Africa that made it possible for  the same number of Yoga4Alex youngsters (71) to come, and in addition, 14 young adults from Yoga4Soweto and four young ladies from Home of Hope. The incredible part is that Yoga4Alex did not have to make a financial contribution for transportation and accommodation.

Cathy has found a sponsor for the bus and the additional 22 seater to transport the 90 young people the 80km journey to Mopani Lodge where SKY Fest is happening. The load of responsibility and care and nurturing is being shared by many hands this SKY Fest.

I share this with you so that you know the names of these incredible people and ask if you will hold them in your warm and generous heart during your sadhana. With love and gratitude.

Sat Nam 

It was through Marianne Felix’s HIV work with Grade 12 learners that she realized these youngsters needed to learn how to deal with anxiety, anger, grief and depression. Kundalini Yoga had helped Marianne resolve personal traumas so she knew it was a valuable technique for dealing with the stresses and emotions experienced by young people. As a result Marianne became a yoga teacher and has formed Yoga4Alex, an NGO that offers yoga classes to high school learners in Alexandra. Five Yoga4Alex youngsters have become yoga teachers and currently 1,500 high school learners in Alexandra participate in weekly yoga classes in three high schools in Alexandra. 

See more on Yoga4Alex’s Facebook page and website Email us at [email protected] We welcome your messages and questions.

Following is Nothile Ngobe's account of her experience at Sky Fest as a participant:

Sky Fest: Ang Sang Wahe Guru—You are a Part of Infinity & Infinity is a Part of You

Sky Fest 2018, the year of Ang Sang Wahe Guru or should I say Sat Nam Wahe Guru. This is what just about everyone was singing when they left camp. It was stuck in their heads.

This was my first time at Sky Fest and all I can say is that it was amazing to take part in such a beautiful festival. I had no idea what to expect, except for waking up at 4 am and doing yoga all day every day.

I could write pages and pages about the wonderful experience I had, but one must experience it for oneself to believe me. I don’t even know where to begin.

There were many fun and enriching activities for all (young and old) to participate in, from the beautiful sound journey that just took us to another dimension and really explored healing and relaxation through sound, to the awesome drumming workshop doing all sorts of funky rhythms and dances which everyone really enjoyed, to eating delicious vegetarian meals prepared through a wonderful volunteer system of Seva, to connecting and getting to know other people from all walks of life.

The children had plenty of educational and interesting workshops such as: getting in touch with nature through a nature walk; learning to defend themselves in the fun, informative self-defense workshop; learning all sorts of life skills such as healthy eating; managing their finances; and navigating adolescence and growing up.

They also had fun swimming, taking part in yoga classes, and relaxing. In the beginning they were missing home but by the time it was time to go home none of them wanted to leave. I remember one whispering in my ear, “Can’t we stay longer.”

Sky fest was a wonderful space for introspection and creating deeper connections with others through yoga, workshops and meditation and I truly enjoyed being a part of it.  

One of the highlights for me was a workshop by Har Bhajan. The workshop was essentially all about the five Sutras given to us by Yogi Bhajan, these being:

-          There is a way through every block.

-          Recognize the other person is you.

-          When the time is on you start and the pressure will be off.

-          Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.

-          Vibrate the Cosmos. The Cosmos will clear the path.

I caught myself thinking what a brilliant way to live life. If all could live by these five sutras, surely we would co-exist beautifully. These sutras are relevant to everyone. This weekend taught me about listening to myself and others. It left me feeling revitalized and ready to face life and its challenges.

We all owe it to ourselves to live our Inner Truth.

Nothile Ngobe is a 3rd navigation officer onboard Maersk container ships. Her first introduction to yoga was with Dr. Marianne/Pavan Kamal in 2015. She was going through a tough time after the loss of one of her brothers. Pavan Kamal introduced her to Siri Ajeet, Bongi, Emmah and Fhulu who were preparing to do their teacher training module 1. “I would join in on their daily practice and it helped me get through my depression. I then decided to join the teacher training course.”

Live to Give Grant Program