Featuring Nyakinyua Chege from Kenya

Monday, 17 August 2020

by Justine of Just Yoga


Kenyan yogi, Nyakinyua Chege, works as a program coordinator for the Africa Yoga Project's trauma-informed yoga programs. The Africa Yoga Project is a Nairobi based, non-profit organisation, whose goal is to educate, empower, elevate and expand employability of youth in Africa using the transformational practice of yoga.

Nyakinyua's yoga journey began nine years ago. She had been going through a very difficult period in her life where she was seeking to define her identity. She was searching for something to fill an emptiness she had in her life. It was a time when mostly negative thoughts swam through her mind, even making her suicidal. She was always emotional and having thoughts self-pity, self-sabotage, bitterness and resentment.

She knew this was not a good way to feel. Something in her started to slowly awaken and she started making a conscious decision to change her life. She started reading a lot of self-help books and wellness magazines. One thing stood out for Nyakinyua, from reading all those wellness magazines, was meditation was a solution many people had used to rewire their minds. In her quest to learn more about meditation and its various techniques, she came across the Africa Yoga Project on Facebook.  and decided to make contact with them and find out about their meditation classes. With no knowledge of yoga, she soon found herself in an African Yoga Project yoga class.

Nyakinyua began practicing yoga every Saturday at the Africa Yoga projects community class. In 2014, she applied and got accepted into a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) course at the Africa Yoga Project. This marked the beginning of her yoga teaching career. Since then she has taken a number of yoga related courses to enhance and grow her knowledge of yoga. With restrictions due to the pandemic, Nyakinyua has moved her classes online.
"Wow, I could write a book around how yoga has changed my life. Yoga helped me take my power as a woman back."

 

Practicing yoga has benefited Nyakiey in so many ways, particularly on her path of self-awareness. She can feel how much she has grown in confidence and security in herself and her abilities. She learnt to take responsibility for her own life from the emotions she was allowing herself to feel to the decisions she was making and the actions she was taking. Today, nine years after she first sat on a yoga mat, she can feel a very significant shift in her mindset. She is in full control of her life and takes responsibility of her future growth.

"Lessons I learnt on the yoga mat is that my practice is my mirror. This has helped me hugely in shifting from a negative and self-sabotaging thought pattern to a positive, self-believing and affirming mindset."
Another area in which Nyakinyua noticed a change in was her relationship with food and anything else she consumed. She used to be the kind of person who would pop a pill at the slightest pain. However, with the practice of yoga and meditation, her awareness of her body has grown so much that she is now more intentional with what she consumes, food, medication and drinks. She feels that her mental health has been one of the areas in which she benefited the most from her consistent and regular practice of yoga. Nyakinyua is only human, and has had had moments when she slipped back into her old habits of negativity, misery and even got diagnosed with depression. However, the shining light through all of that was always getting on her mat for a yoga practice.

"Through all my struggles, getting on my mat for a yoga practice has helped me look forward to another day of happiness and not self-harm."


Nyakinyua's most challenging asanas have been inversions, and the Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose) which is a back bend that strengthens and lengthens the vertebrae, increasing elasticity and flexibility of the spine. Through determination, she has learnt how to get into wheel pose from Adho Mukha Svanasana Flip (flip the dog pose) and is still working on being able to lift herself into wheel pose from the ground.
"Inversions represent some very huge shift. I remember the first time I took a forearm stand in training. I experienced so much fear and panic that I asked my training partner to help me get off the pose."

Through her tenacity and perseverance, she learnt to use a wall when practicing Salamba Sirsasana (headstand pose), and that gradually helped her to overcome the fear of falling. Today, she is able to practice a headstand without a wall because she has been able to overcome the fear of the unknown - of falling down. She had come to realise that the block was in her mind. The practice of yoga has taught Nyakinyua the most priceless lesson; that she has a choice in every moment. This has been very helpful in helping her to define what her boundaries are, and when to stay or to stop doing something.
"Yoga has taught me that I am very resilient and very committed to what I set myself to do. It has taught me to live in the present moment and to take risks. About life, yoga has taught me that we create our life every single moment through our thoughts, whether we know it or not."

Nyakinyua practices yoga early in the morning when she awakes, or in the evenings between 7 and 8 pm. She tries to practice at least 3 times a week. Some weeks are easy and some weeks are a struggle to find the time. In those weeks, she makes sure to practice at least five minutes of meditation daily. Nyakinyua's family knows she practices yoga. At first, she received a lot of teasing and resistance, mainly because they did not understand what it was. However, over time, they have seen the changes that have happened to her and her life and even though they do not practice it, they are supportive of her ongoing journey.

Practicing yoga during lockdown helped Nyakinyua very much with helping her create structure and routine in her life. She practiced at a particular time of the day and this helped her to maintain a
routine that guided her. It has also helped her in reenergizing herself physically.
"Along my yoga journey, I have inspired two other ladies to start training as yoga teachers. They both happened to practice yoga with me in different locations and became inspired to pursue training. Now, they are both certified yoga teachers who are making a huge impact in their communities through their teaching."
Yogi Nyakinyua Chege's final message to anyone who is looking at starting yoga, is that the practice of yoga is like going on an intimate journey of self-discovery with yourself. You get to discover so much about yourself. Some of which are scary, frustrating, and some are exciting. However, the practice of yoga gives you the tools to be able to deal with all the discoveries you make about yourself. Most of all, you experience freedom to be yourself.

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