Yoga in Nigeria: What it’s really like


Have you ever encountered a situation where you wanted to “be the change you wish to see in the world?” When I moved to Nigeria in 2012, there were a hand full of gyms, fitness classes and healthy eating options. Five years later, the healthy lifestyle scene has blossomed immensely. There seems to be a new gym opening on every corner, new restaurants offering vegetarian and vegan options, and cold press juices sold in every supermarket.

Weight loss and management are not the only lifestyle topics. Community building, stress management, emotional intelligence, self-esteem boosters, and how to care for internal organs are also highlighted when discussing healthy behaviors in Nigeria.

Yoga in Nigeria is growing organically. It has become a highly sought after discipline amongst hard working millennials and seasoned adults who honor the combination of relaxation and mindful movement. Most gyms, health centers, spas, and corporate offices across Nigeria offer yoga classes. As a teacher and lifestyle mentor, here are a few observations and reasons for the growth of yoga across Nigeria.

. Yoga builds community
Yoga is building and strengthening communities across Nigeria. You sweat together, cry together, and uplift each other physically, mentally and emotionally during yoga practice. This supportive atmosphere is also experienced outside the classroom, and has profound effects on people who enjoy connecting with others who share similar experiences.

These shared experiences have become a foundation for the yoga communities sprouting across the country. There are chats before class, shared moments during class and juice or tea outings afterward. People choose to cultivate relationships in a yoga community in a different way than their other relationships. Check out a nearby gym or health center to discover the energy for yourself.

In Lagos, people walk out of yoga class feeling relaxed and empowered. The urge to relax and synchronize your breath with body movement is highly sought after to deal with the stress of city living. The only difference between Lagos and other metropolitan cities like Atlanta, Nairobi or New York City is that you could experience an African Drumming Meditation class or day trip to the nearby beach for a yoga retreat. The options for combining yoga with Lagos living provide unique experiences for community building.

. Yoga defeats stress
Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines poses, mindful breathing, meditation and relaxation to alleviate stress. People who practice yoga learn how to relax and focus on what truly matters – your breath and heartbeat.

I ask my students to lay their right hand over their heart and left hand on top of their belly during the last 10 minutes of class. The attention given to your breath and heart will keep you present. While present, you will experience peacefulness and deeper understanding as you observe what’s happening to you mentally, emotionally and physically. Yoga is relaxing, and scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, manage chronic ailments and reduce stress.

. Yoga teaches patience, gratitude and to keep flowing
Yoga truly fits into the modern Nigerian culture. With the number of distractions and intense focus on past and future events, there is much need to relax and study the rhythm of the breath. In class, I like to encourage my students to be in “honey-time”. I’m asking my students to imagine flowing through a thick amount of honey slowly and intently. Imagine tapping into your senses – touch, smell, sight, taste – while visualizing your body, breath and movement flowing like honey. Slow, intentional and yummy. When you experience steady flow, you’ll appreciate the pace and journey required to blossom both on and off the yoga mat.

For many of us, patience is one of the hardest things to cultivate. The Yoga Sutras talk about patience as one of three qualities required to move into a state of union (the definition of yoga). What I notice when most people practice yoga is; less anxiety, less self-doubt, and less judgement. Yoga then becomes a tool to relax in the moment and take care of the places where healing and attention are needed. There is so much more to come from the yoga lifestyle scene in Nigeria. Stay tuned for more details about yoga in Lagos, Nigeria via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (@Chocolako). Namaste.

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