Yoga in Uganda 2016


crop tree

Yep, those are rhinos grazing behind these beautiful trees!

Is this your year? As I prepare for what will be my 4th trip to Uganda there is snow all around. My thoughts keep floating ahead to the much warmer Ugandan climate that I have been blessed to be able to languish in for a few weeks  each year. Here is a taste of what to expect if  you decide to join me (and a number of other yogis, from Canada and beyond) this coming May to do yoga, and experience Uganda: The Pearl of Africa. .

We are usually awakened each day at 6am by an enthusiastic rooster or two. I move through my morning yoga practice surrounded by the ear splitting, early morning orchestra of bird and animal cries coming from the trees all around our guest house. At 7 we all do a morning yoga practice together before breakfast and then walk to the Shanti Uganda site.

zz Shanti

Boda ride to Shanti

On our first day however, we usually go by boda boda (motorcycles). If it is your first time in Uganda this is such a treat. We first pass the busy main street and then drive down the side roads lined with children playing, in varying states of dress. They have beaming smiles for us as we pass. Their parents are hard at work in the gardens near their homes, or setting up shops. There are no toys anywhere. These children are playing with sticks, or other items that may be lying around and their joy cannot be contained. The winding side road soon becomes a tree lined pathway that drivers fly along at breakneck speeds past women carrying loads of water or firewood on their heads and men on bicycles loaded up with bunches of bananas, the main ingredient for the local staple of matoke.



Fresh-made local food for lunches

Each day we reach the Birth house and are greeted by the bright white smiles of the staff. There are just 3 humble structures, the reception hut, the gazebo, the birthing rooms and a small laboratory. There are plants and herbs growing in the gardens all around this lovely site and we are usually given a tour on our first day.



Lecture & discussion on reed mats, in the shade by this time day!

The Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training portion of my trip to Shanti Uganda is a gift. Every year the balance of participants just feels absolutely perfect. We do lectures on reed mats under the trees and on our last day we practice teaching with the mommas who come for prenatal visits every Thursday. Our study time is broken up with cultural experiences such as rhino safari, village walks, and availing of the fresh, nutritious food made with love by the women of Shanti Uganda for our lunches. As we study, women may come and go for prenatal and birth support.


shanti uganda student malasanaOn some days the income generating program women will be on site, hard at work in their brightly coloured dresses. This is a program to provide employment for mothers and grandmothers struggling with HIV and AIDS, a huge problem in a country where millions of children have been orphaned by AIDS. They use the skills they learn at Shanti Uganda to help them provide food and shelter for the families they support. Many of these women are widows caring for large number of children and grandchildren. One day, as I passed out nail polish I had brought for them from Canada they stopped working to giggle as they did their nails, passing the bottles around until everyone had a finger of every colour. I am humbled and awed by this spontaneous display of joy. I think of the things that bother me at home. The things that stop me from feeling joy all day long and I am ashamed. I think of how very fortunate my life is and say one of many silent thank yous to Uganda for this reminder.

As the income generating women work diligently under their grass-roofed gazebo shelter, birthing moms may wander about Shanti, leaning on trees during a contraction or possibly taking in a yoga class. Shanti’s reverence for birth as a natural, normal event is so obvious. Each woman is given skilled, genuine and personal support. For this space to birth mindfully and all of the other loving supports provided by Shanti staff, these mothers pay a little over one dollar, a steal for a service that I consider to be priceless.


Walking to the Shanti site on the village roads.

The days at Shanti often end with a home cooked meal at the guest house or at one of the program participant’s homes. We leave the birth house each evening to make our way along the winding road back to our guest house. The village activities vacillate between bustling activity and stillness, snapshots of babies being washed in tubs in front of houses, meals being cooked in lean-tos, children playing with scraps of tires, whole families driving by on the same motorcycle, goods of all types being carried on top of people’s heads and above all, smiles and laughter… essence life is being lived. And despite the grinding poverty and many social issues that continue to be a challenge in Uganda I cannot help but feel that it is being lived well. So well in fact that I know that each year I return home committed to bringing a little more of Uganda into my daily life back in Canada.


Morning Yoga outside our bandha on the last day in the wildlife sanctuary

Last year I was fortunate to share this experience with my mom. This year I have booked a post-training safari, and for the first time ever, Gorilla Trekking! I cannot express how excited and grateful I am to be able to have these experiences. Get ready for some awesome photo posts!

Namaste, Bobby

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