Yoga is gaining popularity world-wide. Studio’s are popping up like mushrooms and a growing online community of yogi share their experiences through platforms such as YouTube. In Sierra Leone, yoga is becoming more known to the public as well. There is a growing number of teachers and practitioners, offering a variety of classes on dreamy locations. Tropical forests, endless shores and a virtually unexplored tourist destination make Sierra Leone a potential yoga walhalla. Read on to find out more about the (still) unknown yoga movement in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leonean Yoga Teachers
There are approximately 20 yoga teachers in Sierra Leone, of whom only five are internationals. Most of the Sierra Leonean teachers have received their teacher certificates through the Africa Yoga Project, which offers scholarships for Africans to do their teacher training course. As a result of this, all recipients of this support must offer yoga classes in their community. This means that in Freetown, for example, yoga classes are held on the beach, at the National Stadium and other public spaces. Teachers also offer private sessions, and non-community group classes at different locations. As there is no designated yoga studio in Sierra Leone, teachers resort to sports facilities and public spaces.
The style Sierra Leonean teachers offer are mostly hatha yoga, with an emphasis on breath-aligned vinyasa flows. Many Sierra Leoneans get their first taste of yoga through their classes, and find themselves appreciating the physical challenge of the powerful flows.
To find out about where and when these classes take place, check out the Yoga Salone Facebook page. They publish their schedule and prices (from donation to 6$ per private class) online and communicate through WhatsApp groups as well.
From Yin to Ashtanga
Yoga comes in different forms and styles, of which some have transformed into hybrid forms that attracts an elaborate audience. In Sierra Leone, international teachers offer specific styles in a similar fashion as in the western world. We have highlighted some teachers who provide classes on a consistent basis.
Yin Yoga with Julia Emes
Yin, as the polar of yang, connects with the feminine, the slow, the tranquil. Yin yoga embraces this principle as a counterbalance to our increasingly ‘yang’ lifestyles. Running around, aerobics, fire, heat and sweating are yang qualities of which an abundance can contribute to overwhelm and stress. In a yoga practice this means doing the opposite. Poses are held longer, sometimes up to five minutes, and the focus is not on strengthening or lengthening the muscles, but on nourishing ligaments, tendons, fascia and lymph canals by opening op slowly and allowing energy to flow more freely. A big aspect of yin is the meditation, which occurs during the long-held poses. Julia Emes gives yin yoga in her house, and offers meditation courses as well. Her warmth and personal attention make these classes a true zen experience, especially for those who want to quiet the busy mind.
Julia offers classes with a suggested 60.000SLL (7$) fee, but she also accepts payments below or above that. Her yoga studio is filled with high quality props and yoga mats, for which she does not charge a rental fee.
Ashtanga Yoga with Iciar de Liniers
Ashtanga yoga can sound intimidating to those flirting with the idea of starting a practice. Traditionally, it consists of a fixed 90 minutes sequence, which is practiced six times a week before sunrise. Many teachers, however, choose to deviate form this rather strict approach. Iciar, an energetic, charming teacher who originally hails from Spain, is one of those teachers. Her personal attention to each student, modifications and mild pace make this practice accessible for every body. She teaches at her house, on an open platform with a stunning view of the mountainous Freetown.
Price: 10$ for internationals, 20.000SLL (3$) for Sierra Leoneans. Mat rental for 15.000SLL, props available.
Find out more: www.facebook.com/groups/ashtangayogasalone/
Hatha and ashtanga yoga with Michael Solís
Michael is a veteran in the Sierra Leonean yoga scene. He has been teaching yoga since 2015, was the initiator of the Yoga Salone Facebook group, and offers yoga classes in various forms and styles on ever-changing locations. Michael teaches both hatha and ashtanga yoga, and offers various opportunities that allow for a deepening of your practice. Whether this is through a three-class yoga getaway at the beach, or through a yoga philosophy workshop in a local restaurant.
His ashtanga classes are similar to those of Iciar, meaning that he allows for modifications to ensure the safety and accessibility of the practice to students of all (physical) backgrounds. Although he can add or remove certain poses, the sequence remains largely within the fixed primary series fashion. His hatha classes offer a more varied practice, since this style has more space to tailor classes to needs and requests.
Prices: 10$ per class
Find out more: schedules are posted on the Yoga Salone Facebook page www.facebook.com/groups/ashtangayogasalone/
Esther Kamara is a Dutch-Sierra Leonean that was born and raised in Amsterdam. After finishing her bachelor Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam she moved to Freetown, where she now works as a freelance writer and artist manager. Her brainchildren are otherworldly short stories and peculiar drawings of non-existing characters.