Wednesday 27 May 2009

Astanga in Rwanda

Welcome to Purple Cowrie, blog of Georgina Obaya Ifoma Evans

I've started this blog to share my experiences while engaged in voluntary work in Rwanda this summer. But first a little background...

I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to London, England, before the age of five. I was educated in both cities and moved back and forth several times before finally settling in London in the early 80's. I have a professional background in visual and performance art. I studied at Camberwell School of Art- foundation studies, Goldsmiths College- BA Fine Art and Middlesex University- MA Film and Visual Cultures. I worked as a mixed media artist, taking part in exhibitions, performances and arts educational work in London and Europe for ten years before retraining as yoga teacher. I have been teaching yoga for the past six years and it is yoga that is taking me to Rwanda.

I will be going to Rwanda on the 30th May 2009 to work with WE-ACTxyoga. This project invites Astanga Yoga teachers from around the world go to Rwanda to offer 3 months' voluntary service, teaching yoga to HIV positive women and children. The project is an offshoot of the parent organisation, WE-ACTx, which has been offering healthcare and treatment to Rwandan women genocide rape survivors and their children since 2003.

When I first received an email about the WE-ACTxyoga project about a year ago, I though Hmmm! that sounds interesting. But in my busy-ness at the time with classes, workshop and what have you, I let it slide. The information came round again via one of my yoga students. This time, something deep in side was stirred - awakened perhaps. Here was an opportunity for integrating various different strands: My commitment to employing yoga to further the wellbeing of women in need; the desire to deepen my practise by taking yoga off the mat and I hadn't been back to Africa for many years so it was about time I did. I didn't realise it completely at the time but, a knowing light in my heart saw this opportunity as a vehicle of transformation and I made a decision there and then that I must go.

With many questions, a few fears and much excitement, all of which have been animating my days and dreams, I've spent the last 8 months or so, immersed in preparations. Alongside my regular teaching schedule and family life, I have been fundraising, learning about HIV, reading up on Rwanda and the terrible history of genocide and getting my body, mind and spirit prepared (i.e. as open and aware as possible at this time) to engage with this opportunity for Karma yoga.

Right now I'm in Cape Town, South Africa, visiting my artist friend Amanda Holiday and her family, taking some time out to chill and reconnect with mother Africa. I haven't been on African soil for 17 years and it feels good to be back.

To close my first Purple Cowrie post, I have one more thing to add. Just before leaving London, to commence this project, Sri K Pattabhi Jois, Guruji, the foremost teacher of Astanga Vinyasa Yoga died at his home in Mysore at the age on 94. Guruji was responsible for sharing the healing practise of Astanga Yoga with many thousands of students throughout the world. I take this opportunity to give thanks for Guruji's teaching of the Astanga Vinyasa Yoga system. I received teaching directly from him at his shala in Mysore, India and in London and also from several senior Astanga yoga teachers, including John Scott, Hamish Hendry and Dena Kingsburg. I am eternally grateful to him and thankful to all my teachers for this wonderful, life-changing practise. Astanga yoga has offered me a path to good health, personal healing and happiness as I teach others and support them in their own transformative processes of growth, healing and wholeness.