When her father fell ill and was hospitalised, yoga teacher Ayesha Samji, spent many hours by his side. She shared with him what she knew would provide relief - asana, breathing techniques and meditation. Over a period of nine months, these teachings spread from her father’s bedside to other carers and patients in the hospital. It was only when they returned home some time afterwards, that she realised just how important those yoga sessions had been. She received a phone call from a carer to thank her, and this expression of gratitude was the impetus for Ayesha to establish Yoga for Wellness Tanzania in 2015.
YWT strives to introduce through training and education - specifically teacher training programmes - the awareness of the benefits to be derived from yoga. The full-time team of four and affiliated volunteers share the vision that this knowledge of wellbeing and alternative care be made available to all across Tanzania, and be put into practice for the advantage of particularly those who are most vulnerable.
A mere two years from inception, they are steadfastly on the path to fulfilling that vision. They have projects ongoing in Oncology and Orthopaedic centres, in Sober homes, in women’s community centres and prisons. They reach around 180 people a week who are most in need and would otherwise never have had the opportunity to do yoga.
What is so inspiring about YWT - and Ayesha - is their emphasis on skills enrichment and the creation of employment. They do not seek to just provide yoga classes, but to train health carers, teachers, community and youth leaders to continue the work of spreading practical, accessible and integral yoga knowledge independent of YWT support. This knowledge becomes useful to the lives of those who are up-skilled as much as it does to those who fall under their care and tutelage. Being a health carer in a paediatric oncology unit, for example, can be an incredibly stressful and taxing occupation. Being able to tap into yoga de-stressing techniques for a carer and their patients can help alleviate that stress, everyday, in tangible ways.
Ayesha explained in a recent conversation with YOGICOMM that a forthcoming focus area for YWT is in primary schools across Tanzania. They are soon to be embarking on an Early Childhood Development (ECD) project to best understand how, where, and when the education syllabus can benefit from yoga teachings. The roll out of this project would ideally focus on equipping teachers with the skills to integrate yoga lessons into their daily lessons and classroom routines.
To continue to grow in their reach and run their inspiring projects, YWT needs volunteers and resources. This is a call-to-action, yogis. If you are a yoga instructor who has a big heart and a nomadic lifestyle, consider stopping in Dar es Salaam to teach yoga with YWT next. If you are a yoga studio owner, or a yoga professional who runs teacher training courses, YWT needs training resources.
YOGICOMM is excited and honoured to have begun a collaboration with YWT. If you would like to know more about this, or the volunteers and teacher training projects run by YWT, get it touch.