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Kampala Embraces Yoga

Urban Yogi

It seems a bit strange that contorting your body into impossible shapes can bring physical relief. Practitioners of yoga, however, swear there are countless benefits of yoga including increased immunity and a well toned body.

Yoga is used to curb emotional and psychological stress and although the uptake has been slow, Ugandan’s are latching onto the practice.

Amelia Kabuye, a Ugandan legal assistant started yoga to get a bit of exercise but realized that the benefits were far greater than she had imagined. Yoga brought a ‘balance’ to her being; a thing she says is difficult to put into words.

For Alex Ochom, a Ugandan instructor, yoga is most effective when it comes to stress relief saying, “We live in a very stress filled time, I feel that yoga can be a good solution to that.” He has been teaching yoga since 2009 and has seen a steady increase in the number of Ugandan students, especially this year.

With a taekwondo and gymnastics background, he was looking for a more active form of yoga. He was surprised to find that yoga wasn’t all about ohming, a mantra that is repeated normally at the start and end of a yoga session. A misconception many Ugandans share. He settled into Ashtanga yoga because it is more physically demanding and incorporates balancing, cardio, breathing and strengthening of the body.

Alex’s classes have students from beginner to advanced levels so he tailors the classes to all their needs. The first barrier he finds to the up-take of yoga is the financial expense. On average a class costs about 20,000 UGX a price that is high for the average Ugandan.

Embrace Yoga in Uganda

In a bid to spread this philosophy and provide the youth with a positive activity, he charges some students less. He is also currently looking for a free space where he can instruct people and where people can practice yoga at no cost. The idea of a TV show in the morning is one he feels would help reach Ugandans en masse. The second challenge is that most who have heard about yoga think that it is a religion.

Angela Inglish, a yoga instructor in Makindye, says she has encountered this problem. This may be because yoga originates from India where Hinduism and Buddhism are predominant religions. Latim Obonyo Umbi, an instructor at annaE’s studio believes it may also be because yoga writings are in Sanskrit, the language of Hinduism.

While there are regular attendees Angela would love to see more Ugandan’s in her class. She prefers Vinyasa Yoga because it is less rigid and non-repetitive. “It allows you to switch up the styles,” she says.

At annaE’s in Bukoto, Anna Erlandsdotter and Latim Obonyo Umbi, the instructors, have new dynamic blends of yoga such as Kick Off Yoga and Happy Hour Recovery Yoga which is best for one recovering from a long night out. They believe that yoga can be tailored to whatever the individual needs. Pregnant women or couples can have particular blends.

Anna who has been in Uganda for three years sees a change in yoga, “It is becoming more dynamic,” she says. She attributes this to the entry of new yoga teachers into the market. Before, the yoga was taught more by Indian teachers who focused more on the philosophy.

Anna’s studio also offers private classes to not more than five. Latim says this way the individuals get maximum attention.

Yoga in Kampala

Some say yoga is egotistical because it focuses on the self but Anna believes it’s altruistic and is glad more Ugandan women come to the class. “Women are the care givers. It is only when we take good care of ourselves that we can take care of others,” she says.

Alex teaches a class at Acacia Yoga and Wellbeing Center on Monday and Friday at 6pm and on Wednesday at 9am for 20,000 UGX a class.

Angela teaches a class at the American Recreational Association on Wednesday at 9am for 15,000 UGX.

Classes at annaE’s are on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm, on Friday at 7am and on Saturday at 9am. They charge 125,000 UGX for 5 classes and 30,000 UGX for a single class. They also teach at Kabira Country Club where non-members pay 15,000 UGX a class.

All teachers offer private classes.

There is a new Facebook page where you can keep updated on all the goings on of Yoga and other wellness activities in Kampala: https://www.facebook.com/WellnessUganda

AnnaE’s studio is on the tarmac road above Kampala International School found here. Once there, you can call them on 0776035587. You can also find them on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/annaEs/142934362505575

We will provide links to maps for the following locations as soon as we can:

  • The Acacia Yoga and Wellbeing Center
  • The American Recreational Association in Makindye
  • The Kabira Country Club
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