By Elonne Stockton
When we practice we relax the jaw and face, releasing the soft palate, cultivating the feeling of “ahhh” in the mouth. Essentially this ahhh is staying open to whatever is arising, open to new beliefs, new situations and new people, not gripping anything with our preconceived ideas of the way things ought to be. Richard Freeman talks a lot about this and so does Paul. It is very much connected to our ability to stay centered, balanced and free.
For me Africa was all about discovering a new sense of ahhh. Everything was completely new for me, and to my surprise the experience was not colored by my Western ideals and standards. I remained open to it all, ahhhmazed by it all.
I was captivated by the stunning landscapes – swimming with penguins at Boulder’s Beach in Cape Town, seeing horses graze amidst lush greenery on the side of the highway in Abidjan, guessing at the supposed meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans at Cape of Good Hope and meeting my first dassie there, watching the sun set over Table Mountain. Ahhh.
And I was riveted . . . watching naked-homeless, happy-smiling children playing in the mud in Abidjan, dancing and laughing with a local Ivory Coast dance troupe, seeing a young man with polio begging near the open sewer system on the streets of Accra, witnessing the aftermath of apartheid in the townships of South Africa and the tiny cell where Nelson Mandela somehow made it through 18 years of his life and was still miraculously able to feel in his heart a sense of “reconciliation.” I was stunned and amazed the whole trip. Ahhh!
Not only did I feel ahhh on the streets and in the countryside, but also in the teaching environs. I was touched by the yoga of interacting and connecting with the students there. What a blessing it was to meet such an incredibly sweet and connected group of students.
In Ivory Coast students had come from all over. They had experienced war, left their families and homelands for different reasons, seen incredible disparity all around them. And I was surprised and impressed to hear their questions about the practice, about life. Clearly there was a deep understanding and practical application of some of the more difficult yogic concepts, ideas that even pundits struggle with. This makes sense, I suppose; who would know the value of peace better than those who had witnessed war, as well as other pain, suffering and hardship?
And all the while I was in Africa I was taken care of by incredibly sweet and caring hosts who didn’t let me want for anything. Thank you Nieves Lahuerta, Onanchi Chapet, Leila Hassan, Ulrike Lamprecht, Gillian Breetzke and Marc Clayton! You all touched my heart, moved and inspired me.
I hope to return in the near future, and I know many of us will reunite soon at Samahita. That we may continue to grow these practices together. And that we may share this yoga, which of course extends beyond the asana and pranayama classes.