The UKZN Yoga Project was launched in partnership with the Township Yogi Project at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine in October.
The project targets staff and students and was launched by Dr Suvira Ramlall, Academic Leader for the Registrar Training Programme. Ramlall states that the project was a response to the frequent requests for assistance with stress management by both staff and students. ‘There was a need to capacitate people with simple skills and techniques to not just reduce stress but to adopt a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle. (Hatha) Yoga and mindfulness meditation are two simple practices that do not require expensive resources and also have a body of scientific evidence attesting to their effectiveness in reducing stress, maintaining health and improving outcomes for a variety of medical and psychiatric illnesses.’
The launch commenced with a Mindfulness Meditation session by UKZN specialist psychiatrist, Dr Kalpesh Narsi. Narsi is based at the eThekwini District Health Office as a community psychiatrist and supports primary care doctors in integrating mental health in the district health system. He is currently on the University of Massachusetts teacher training pathway as a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction instructor.
Narsi described Mindfulness as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
The first yoga class was attended by academics and students. Instructor, Mr Zweli Vilakazi introduced this practice as an ancient discipline from India. It is both spiritual and physical. Yoga uses breathing techniques, exercise and meditation to improve health and happiness.
Vilakazi said that he began attending yoga classes as a way of increasing his suppleness in relation to dance, but within a few months of discovering the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of yoga, he adopted it as a way of life. In 2014, he was offered the opportunity of training to become a Hatha yoga teacher through the Township Yogi Project’s teacher training programme. His training took him all over South Africa, and to India for his 500-hour yoga teaching qualification. In 2017 Vilakazi travelled to the northern regions of Namibia to launch the Township Yogi Project in communities there. He runs yoga classes at schools in KwaMashu and is committed to bringing about change within his own township community, especially in the lives of children and the youth through the power of yoga.
Classes will be held on Wednesday afternoons from 15h00-16h00 in the Medical School Examinations Hall and will resume in the new academic year.
Words: Lihle Sosibo