Featuring Roseline Nyman from South Africa

Sunday, 9 August 2020

by Justine of Just Yoga

Humbly and quietly, winning the hearts of Cape Flats residents in South Africa, through yoga, is practicing Advocate Roseline Nyman. Roseline started her yoga journey very early in her life. Always an avid reader, she had come across the principles of yoga in books and instantly knew it was an excellent practice that would suit her well. At that time not many people practiced yoga in South Africa, but this did not deter her and she continued with her yoga practice during her university days. After varsity she started practising law and became a Revolutionary Activist during the struggle against apartheid in the early 90s. Feeling the stress and anxiety of her involvement in so many causes at the time, she recommenced her practice of yoga at a local studio that had been teaching kundalini yoga.
"Yoga has made me more centred and grounded. It helped me release emotions such as grief and anger, allowing me to become more at peace with myself. Yoga reinforced the spiritual gift of serving others."
Roseline has now been consistently practicing yoga for the past 10 years. During this time, she became a certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher and certified Level 2 Kundalini Yoga Teacher. It was apparent to her that the yoga studios in Cape Town were frequented largely by white students and teachers and she was often the only person of colour in a class. As awkward and daunting as she felt, at the time, Roseline made yoga a regular practice in her life and still attended the yoga retreats and teacher training courses. She attended her first yoga training at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, India nine years ago. Since then she has attended Iyengar training, Vinyasa, Bikram, Buddhist meditation and all possible schools of yoga and meditation that she could access. 

Six years ago, as soon as she became a certified yoga teacher, she started teaching in black working-class communities on the Cape Flats. The Cape Flats is the flat sanded area, near Cape Town, where black people were forcefully relocated to, during apartheid. She also took yoga to Athlone, Hanover Park, Manenberg and Wynberg to name a few. These areas are home to a diverse population of black, coloured and Indian communities from middle to low income. While there are prospering and peaceful segments in these areas, the poverty, crime and violence is a striking challenge for many. The struggles in these areas range from unemployment, drug abuse and gangsterism to high rates of domestic violence as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Ever the activist and freedom fighter, Roseline had a burning desire to bring peace and calmness to the challenges she could fix in these areas. And so this was the birth of Revolutionary Yoga. For a year , she held classes in her home, and was eventually offered spaced at the catholic community hall in Athlone, at no cost. From twelve students it grew to twenty. Soon students became teachers, with Roseline securing four scholarships of R30 000 each for them to train in Kundalini yoga. Without these scholarships, it would have remained an unattainable dream for them.

Once Roseline's students became certified teachers, they joined her in teaching regular weekly classes in the catholic community hall in Athlone. Their classes cost R20 for those who can afford to pay. They have taught yoga in the streets in gangster-ridden areas, at festivals, schools and many other venues. Roseline has even held low-budget weekend retreats at her home, to introduce her students to a yogic lifestyle. This included sattvic meals and yoga practice.
"I have a deep passion for yoga because I have experienced the benefits for myself: healing trauma, stored emotions in my subconscious and body and connecting with others through Sangat."
Roseline's eighty-four-old mother is her most committed student. Kundalini Yoga has literally reversed her aging process. She is a role model to all the other students and a constant inspiration to Roseline herself.

During lockdown Roseline taught online classes every day for thirty days consecutively. This kept her together and helped her serve others. Everyone, no doubt, experienced shock and grief from being in lock down so suddenly, having our freedom and luxuries taken from us. Yoga helped Roseline reconnect with her body and with others during this time. She saw this as a precious service that she could offer to others during lock down. Another service to others, that Roseline started in 2019, is Free Food Kitchens to serve food to her yoga students after realising the chronic hunger that they were suffering from. Since its start Revolutionary Yoga has established seven Free Food Kitchens. These kitchens are a wonderful way of building solidarity in the yoga community in Cape Town. Most of the donations come from yogis in South Africa, USA, Belgium and Germany. 
"I am eager to increase the number of black yoga teachers in Cape Town. We plan to teach yoga in each of the seven communities after lockdown. To this end I am on the path of training to become a Trainer."

To Roseline, yoga is her way of life. She practices yoga asanas about five days a week and spreads the word about the benefits of yoga whenever and wherever she has the opportunity. She even taught lunch-time yoga in her advocates chambers and when she practiced as an Acting Judge in the High Court. Her colleagues, on her floor of advocates, fondly refer to her as "Yogi".  Roseline's favourite asana is the Salamba Sarvangasa (shoulder stand). It is an inversion and the benefits range from stimulating the thyroid glands and abdominal organs to improving digestion and alleviating insomnia.

Yogi Roseline Nyman's final message to anyone looking at starting yoga, is for you to forget about any preconceptions about practicing yoga. Do not think about what others will think of you or about your practice on your mat. She believes that you should forget about what you should wear and how you should practice. Just start by gathering your courage, roll out your mat, sit on it and just let the magic start working for you.

1 comment

  1. Inspirational story. Thank you for highlighting women of character!


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