This week my attention was drawn to an article on bbc.com about the increase of Yoga in Sierra Leone. I had been aware of this country with long, atrocious civil war between 1991 and 2002 and a country with one of the worst records of human rights this was not the place I thought this would be happening.
I recalled years ago one of the patient’s, a Head-teacher coming into surgery having had a difficult Ofsted inspection – not an unusual when trying to manage a multicultural, challenging school in London. She certainly wasn’t the first and won’t be the last. I particularly remember her talking about a group of new children that had entered the school: they were children that had come from Sierra Leone and had been used as child soldiers. For her it finding a way to integrate them into the school was in itself a challenge as for these 8-9 year olds who had had no childhood all they knew was war and fighting. They had been deprived of a childhood and found it difficult to just play and have fun in a childlike way.
Despite peace the aftermath of this wretched war has left indelible scars and the World Health Organisation estimate that about one sixth of the almost 6 million population have mental disorders. Albeit, they only have one psychiatrist and care of these people is poor.
Tamba Fayia, once a child soldier in Sierra Leone’s civil war, who in 2012 became the country’s first qualified yoga teacher says yoga transformed his life. He set up Yoga Strength which focuses on taking yoga to the people that need it. “I work on the streets, in the slums, in the schools” says Mr Fayia. He has even held a class on a remote river island in the jungle.
He teaches at Sierra Leone’s only mental hospital in the east of Freetown, and therapists say the classes have led to clear psychological improvements in some patients. “It makes me feel light,” one patient said
He teaches at Sierra Leone’s only mental hospital in the east of Freetown, and therapists say the classes have led to clear psychological improvements in some patients. “It makes me feel light,” said one patient.