Fitness, no doubt, is far more than simply exercising on a consistent basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical fitness is ‘the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.’
In order to complete all of these tasks, one must consistently address their fitness levels. This requires proper conditioning through both structured exercise and leisurely activities. In this chat with Kennedy Eberechi, The Executive/Creative Director of FitnessFunNYoga; Jasmine Blessing Enokela demystifies the myths associated with Yoga fitness activities while exposing the health benefits therein
For the purpose of identification, I would like us to start by asking you to introduce yourself and what you do
I am Jasmine Blessing Enokela; a fitness instructor with specialties in Yoga fitness activities. I have done my Registered Yoga Teaching (RYT) Training course and so a certified Yoga instructor. Additionally, I have attended lots of Yoga retreat classes in and out of the country on how to be better at different types of Yoga sequences and styles. This is because as a Yoga teacher or instructor, to help understand the concepts and appreciate the different varieties of yoga types and styles I need to keep educating and updating myself. There are different levels in Yoga and I will be going to 500 level soon.
To the lay person, what is Yoga and what are the functions?
Yoga is the union of the body, soul and mind which brings it to one single form. It helps a lot to improve posture, increase blood circulation, increase attention span and improves memory. In addition, doctors in hospitals would sometimes refer a troubled child and/or those recovering from certain types of accident to Yoga activities to help them regain memory loss. This is because Yoga is all about attention.
Again, I have had in my class someone who walked to me after class and say “instructor I know you may not really know this, but before I started Yoga I used to have pile and it was really painful, but since I started yoga, its being different.
So, one cannot even summarize the functions of yoga in a single term but generally, it helps the whole human being to give good health, good life to different class of people. Yoga could be likened to the old Ayurvedic Medicine which the ancient Indians do,
However, the main importance of yoga is that it aids flexibility. One thing I discovered on my yoga journey is that yoga helps in weight loss and it also helps to get the hips and thighs in shape. More so, it helps strong and tone inner thighs and aids bigger hips. Broodily, It helps to create mobility.
Highlight Some of the Popular Types of Yoga and Briefly Reflect on Them
Undoubtedly there are certain misconceptions about yoga wherein people describe yoga as having spiritual undertone. The truth is that there are lots of yoga practices going on; there is the spiritual level of yoga which not even every normal human being can unlock.
Notwithstanding, there are the popular types of yoga which we do as lay people; we don’t need to take it all the way. We have Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the type of yoga basically for beginners where they have simple sequences they could do.
Then we have the advanced yoga type called Vinyasa. In Vinyasa Yoga there are calculated sequences which one could do. It has some salutations (A and B) and lots of other types of sequences and yoga flows. Again, there is Laughter Yoga for people to just go and laugh and get all the health benefits through it.
There are also Myths about Yoga; people say yoga is not for guys. Now I ask “is healthy living not for guys?” In the ancient India it was men who started yoga and women were only allowed to practice yoga at a much later stage. But you know whatever a woman puts her heart to, she does it very well. That could explain why women are dominating the whole idea of Yoga.
Yoga seems to be More familiar in Europe and America, what are you doing to overcome this and other challenges in Nigeria and Africa at large?
Yes, I will agree with you that yoga seems to be more familiar in Europe and America, especially in India. However, there is a shocking revolution in this century; through the help of the internet lots of people are keying into what they see as the importance of yoga.
In Nigeria, particularly in Kaduna, when I started yoga; people’s main concern was that they were too old to start yoga. Nonetheless I have been able to do lots of education on the need to remove those stereotypes because yoga is for all body types.
Now I am even surprised at the rate at which people are beginning to take the health and fitness thing in Nigeria as a whole to another level. If you go out in the streets you will see lots of people understanding the concept of jogging, running, walking, to keep fit.
Also, it’s been accepting for a whole lot of people to want to start yoga. But the major factors that I can say throughout my field and study of yoga in Nigeria is the fact that people still believe in myths that you need to be flexible to do yoga. You need to be also a certain weight to start Yoga, but am glad that is all being discarded now because people are beginning to key in.
Another challenge is that, for instance here in Northern Kaduna, most of the women prefer doing Yoga within their house hold because they feel its haram to be out with the general public without their ‘abayas’ and men will get to see them and they don’t feel comfortable. Nonetheless they register and key into private yoga classes.
Generally, yoga in Nigeria and in Africa has improved and a lot of people are beginning to be aware about it; thanks to internet facilities and the global world we live in now.
Because of their peculiarities, do you have any project that enables the Rural Communities appreciate Yoga Practices?
Yes! with aims of taking Yoga to the grassroots and local communities, I started an NGO called Kaduna Yoga Project. With the help of the NGO, I added Community Yoga initiative to my yoga routine wherein I go to the grassroot with a team of 5 people consisting of a nutritionist, myself (Yoga Instructor), two aerobics instructors and one translator.
Periodically we visit certain communities with foodstuffs and other items from people who are willing to donate. On a certain date when we go to any rural community, we try to educate the people about proper nutrition.
It’s quite surprising that the people in the rural areas have better healthy life span than most of us who live in the city. Accordingly, we help educate them on how to use their natural resources for effective healthy living. Just in case they don’t understand the language, we always have a translator in our team who mediates.
After all these are being done, we now show them the importance of how to keep fit. We do simple yoga postures, we let them recreate even for children and adults and we just make it fun and after which we donate items to the community
We do follow-ups like one or two months later when we go back and do lots of fun activities with them. It’s amazing how through the Community Yoga initiative, I have been able to take Yoga into many grass roots.
Beyond this, I will also be teaming up with the state government any moment when the Covid-19 pandemic is over to take this bigger. We are already in negotiations wherein I have availed them of everything I would be needing and also the importance of the whole initiative. My team and I are working on how we can get the best of the initiative.
On a Larger Scale, how can the Government assist in making Yoga more viable in Nigeria?
The inclusion of yoga practices in some schools would be good for kids to understand their capabilities at a young age. I know we have Physical and Health Education in school’s curriculum, but I do not think that a whole lot comes from the practical aspect of it, just more of the theories. Therefore, if Yoga activities could be involved in our School curriculum it would really help.
Once more, in some schools that I do yoga classes for, the challenge these children face before then was that they were not able to sit for a particular class and concentrate. Since we started Yoga classes for them, we have had lots of upgrades and nice words from the kids.
Besides, I stay opposite the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital and I go there to help the patients with some yoga activities, which helps. Sometimes it serves as a physiotherapy treatment.
As well, I live beside a correctional facility where I also go to help inmates; I do all these for free. So, if Government can include Yoga activities as a normal standard practice in Nigeria, we would really go great places.
Professionaly, How many years have u been doing Yoga and Looking back to all those years, how satisfied are you?
I started Yoga as a child but was off and on because of my academic pursuits. I started hosting classes and feeling free to share my online and private classes with the public in 2015. With that my confidence level went up and I started teaching professionally in 2016.
Looking back at all these years, Yoga is something that really keeps you on your feet. If for instance there are 500 yoga poses, I have only learnt like 100. Thus, am still in the mood to learn a whole lot more.
Yoga is an everyday thing and even if you have learnt all the yoga poses, there is a way you can now ‘funkify’ all these poses. For example, a recent yoga practice or style has been added, which is called hip-hop yoga. Initially one thinks Yoga is supposed to go with calm music, meditation and everything.
One Mr. Brandon Copeland started the hip-hop yoga movement where you get to play hip-hop music and do yoga as well with it just to make people comfortable and make it more accepting instead of using the conventional Indian sound.
I hope that in the future I will be able to incorporate Yoga styles that would be generally accepted by all yogis all over the world. Consequently, I am not as satisfied as I want to be and would still seek for satisfaction as the years go on; that’s the major aim of being a yogini.