The following post was written by Gap Year Fellow Georgia Morgan.
In yoga, the term svadhyaya means self-study, or self awareness. It is the “process of inquiring into your own nature, the nature of your beliefs, and the nature of the world’s spiritual journey.” The past seven and a half weeks I’ve spent in Cape Town have been just this, an emotional rollercoaster of new experiences, shocking realities, heartwarming moments, breathtaking sights and, most importantly, self- awareness.
This past month I have introduced yoga into my regular weekly routine. I’ve always enjoyed yoga but never got into the habit of practicing it regularly. I found myself going back to my apartment after long and tiring days at Scalabrini with a scattered mind and missing the physical activity that I regularly did at home. There was one week in particular where I realized that I had been restricting myself excessively and unnecessarily. I couldn’t spend extra money on things I didn’t “need,” I couldn’t go out when it was getting dark or go for a run because it’s not safe. Budgeting is hard and I became so wrapped up in how I spent my money that I wasn’t taking care of myself in the ways I needed to be. Finally, I had a breakthrough and realized that I needed to start listening to my body and take care of myself, because I’m here alone and no one else is going to! I bought myself the greatest gift of all: self care.
I found a lovely yoga studio that’s about a 15 minute walk from work and 25 minutes from my apartment. I go 2-3 times a week and can already see the difference in my mental and physical states. I’m getting stronger, in both areas. Yoga allows me to bring my awareness back down from the clouds and into myself after my chaotic work days.
I see my life here reflected in a single yoga session. A flow of movements with the intent of being strong and graceful but with the reality of being rocky and challenging. A place between exertion and relaxation. There are certain yoga poses, certain moments in my day, that seem impossible. My legs are shaking, my arms feel as if they’ll snap at any given moment. And then I remember, breathe. Yoga’s guide is the breath. Every movement, every moment of stillness, every transition, is guided by the breath. It’s most important to focus on our breath when we’re pushing that threshold into exertion, those moments when we feel like we’re about to break. And I’m getting better at this. I’m becoming more patient when all I want to do is give up. I’m constantly between that point of relaxation and exertion, not comfortable but also not completely distraught.
Yoga is teaching me how to bring myself back down closer to that point of relaxation with the use of my breath. I’m learning about myself: how to listen and give myself what I need, how I handle the unexpected challenges of each day being in a foreign country, how I handle loneliness, how I perceive adventure and happiness. Svadhyaya.
It isn’t easy; it is actually quite the opposite. My life and routine here is completely different than any other time previously in my life. I am enjoying it, but it is hard. I feel as if I’m living with one foot in Cape Town and the other in Cary, North Carolina. I’ve created so many beautiful relationships here, and the thought of leaving them behind and never seeing some of these people again after the next 6 weeks is quite heartbreaking. But at the same time, I miss my family and the comforts of home more than I thought I would. It’s a strange feeling and I think that’s why I always feel floating between a state of relaxation and exertion.
My work at Scalabrini this month is exactly what I was hoping for during the lulls in my time with the English school last month. For the months of October and November, I am helping our Zimbabwe clients apply for work, study or business exemption permits on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I co-facilitate a MS Excel course. My afternoons are spent teaching digital literacy and basic typing/ computer courses to classes of about ten adults at a time. I will also be helping with a census project, the UNITE curriculum formatting, and English school support in November. Once 4:30pm rolls around, I’m usually completely exhausted. At first, it felt really strange and uncomfortable to be a 19 year old, white, female teacher with a class of students all older than me (most being around my parents’ age) of various African descent with very intense backgrounds. But as time has gone on and I’ve gotten to know my students and clients much better, I realize none of that matters to them. They are here to soak up all of the information I can provide them with, and that’s what I’ve chosen to focus on. I try to give them my best even when I’m frustrated because you can never assume a person’s level of experience or knowledge here. But to this, I am learning to surrender. They are doing things they have never attempted before in a language that is not their native tongue. Just like me, they are struggling and treading water in new terrain, so why not do it together? And now, as I walk into Scalabrini each morning and throughout my day, I hear “Hello Teacher” or “Good morning Georgia, how are you?” accompanied by a warm and smiling face, and I feel a bit more comforted and fulfilled.
Svadhyaya. It is so important. I am grateful for my time here and my role at Scalabrini. I am grateful to have found my yoga practice. I am grateful for all the people in my life, both here in Cape Town and my support network back home. I am grateful for my own self study journey and all the progress I’ve made so far.