Featuring Sikelelwa Waka from South Africa

Monday, 10 August 2020

by Justine of Just Yoga

Nature lover and yogi, Sikelelwa Waka, lives in the partially-informal settlement of Khayelitsha, south of Cape Town. Xhosa for 'Our New Home', Khayelitsha is one of the poorest areas in the Cape, and is home to the many that form the backbone of various industries, like the service and manufacturing ones, in the Cape. Struggles in this township are vast and have overshadowed the potential of so many, like Sikelelwa. In recent months, partially due to being densely populated and underserviced with essential services, it has been on the top ten list of highest Covid19 cases in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Despite these challenges, Sikelelwa, who prefers to be called Siki, has found peace in yoga and wants to share it with the people of Khayelitsha because she believes that it can bring calmness and peace in the chaos surrounding them.
"Yoga plays a big role in my life. Everyday I wake up and go straight to my mat. It is where I draw my strength and remember that the power that lies within me." 
Sikelelwa started doing yoga as a young teen, about 13 years ago, with an organisation called the Earthchild project. She started as their participant in their programs about living a healthy lifestyle, being mindful and considering the environment. She would attend these programs after school and immediately fell in love with what it stood for. She was especially interested in the yoga component as it was something new and different to what she was accustomed.  She practices her yoga asanas every morning when her mind is fresh, quiet and still.

Siki was inspired from a very young age to be a teacher so that she could uplift and give back to her community. Education and learning is something that she values above most things and believes that teaching what you know to empower someone else is one of the greatest gifts one can give to someone in this world.

Siki did her yoga teacher training two years ago at The Shala yoga school in Cape Town and it is one of the things that she will be forever grateful for. She believes that it changed her life completely. For her it was a journey to unlock the mental limitations that she had about herself and her body that had had often held her back in her life. Siki used to teach yoga to children in local schools before lockdown. With schools being closed and having restrictions in place, she has moved her teaching online. This is often a struggle for her as her data connection is often very slow. She is still determined to grow her adult yoga classes. 

"My yoga mat is my transformational space. I deal with and process things that are going on in my life, on my mat. I then take that to real life." 
For Siki, being on her mat is more than just doing the physical stretches but more about getting herself to her core; to her natural being that is meant for her, to live as a caring, intuitive and giving human being. That core is really the person she strives to embrace everyday.

Siki's favourite asanas are Kapotasana (pigeon pose) and the Virabhadrasana series of poses (Warrior I, II and III). She finds these asanas very powerful and empowering making her feel like she can do anything. She finds that, to do the warrior pose, it requires calmness and focus to be able to balance and maintain the posture. Siki finds that she tends to push herself a little too hard on her mat at times. Realising this and being mindful of her limitations is all part of her growth as a yogi, she believes.
"Yoga has taught me a lot about myself. I feel like everybody needs to practice yoga so that they can get the same insights as well, and be the best version of themselves."
Yoga has taught Siki some valuable lessons which she takes to her everyday life.  She has learnt patience; that everything in life is connected and is a process to work through; and that to pause and take a breath is also progress.    

Siki has also inspired her mother and partner to practice yoga with her. She recalls the early stages in her relationship when her partner impressed her by learning to do an entire round of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations).  Slowly but surely he is now also building up his own practice. He currently likes to practice by himself, and Siki is very supportive and understanding of that, giving him his own space to grow and evolve. She hopes that one day they will practice together.  

"In those first few days of lockdown, I felt lots of different emotions and my mat allowed me space and time to process everything." 
Lockdown was challenging for Siki from a mental perspective and she believes that yoga helped her to ground herself, when panic started to creep in at the start of lockdown, in April. It wasn't an easy process to go through, but she knew she had to find calmness to ground herself and create the capacity to be a strong mother to her son and family.  

Yogi Sikelelwa Waka's final message to anyone looking to take up yoga, is to stop thinking about the flexibility of your body only. Think of yoga as a journey to help you change, day-by-day, not just physically, but mentally as well. It is a transformational journey that will change your life and the way think, and make decisions.

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