How Nyeri woman has the village doing yoga weekly

Residents of Wamunyoro Village in Mathira Constituency, Nyeri County meditating during a yoga class at their sanctuary at the slopes of Mt Kenya Forest.

Photo credit: Irene Mugo I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Starting at the height of Covid-19, when the government imposed travel bans and lockdowns, Dr Gaceke Simons figured residents needed an outlet.
  • And as a yogi certified by an institute in India, she rallied villagers one by one to the open field for the training.

For the last two years, residents of Wamunyoro village have assembled for their yoga classes on the lush green grass on the slopes of Mt Kenya in Mathira constituency.

Starting at the height of Covid-19, when the government imposed travel bans and lockdowns, Dr Gaceke Simons figured residents needed an outlet. And as a yogi certified by an institute in India, she rallied villagers one by one to the open field for the training.

At first, she said, the reception was not enthusiastic but as she showed up with her yoga mat and exercise, the numbers grew overwhelmingly.

Her goal is solely to allow residents to attain some flexibility and balance, lead healthy lives and find fulfilment within themselves.

Dr Gaceke Simons, the yoga trainer and Carol Nderi meditate at her home yoga sanctuary.

Photo credit: Irene Mugo I Nation Media Group

And every Wednesday morning since 2020, the villagers, after finishing their morning chores, gather at their sanctuary surrounded by towering silk oak trees to stretch and relax.

“There was a problem in the community. The pressures and vagaries of life were putting a strain on a majority of them mentally, especially as the pandemic had stalled everything,” she said.

She also said that for the elderly suffering from arthritis due to intensive irrigation work they mostly conduct at night or in the wee hours of the morning, the exercises have offered relief.

Her interest in yoga started when she was helped to unclench and heal from numbness in her body that had lasted more than six months.

Residents of Wamunyoro Village in Mathira  Constituency, Nyeri County meditating during a yoga class at their sanctuary at the slopes of Mt Kenya Forest.

Photo credit: Irene Mugo I Nation Media Group

“After five days of treatment through yoga and a change of diet, I was better. And that is how I apprenticed with other teachers in India and I continue to learn,” she said.

For Dr Gaceke, yoga should not be a preserve of the elite but should be open to everyone as it is a gift.

Besides teaching the villagers, she also teaches members of the public at the Nyeri Golf Club, and patients and their nurses at Karatina Sub-County Hospital.

Nurses at the hospital were among the first groups she yoga-trained. They found an escape in the relaxation technique after experiencing stress during the pandemic.

“I have a skill that transformed my body … I wanted to give back and make sure that my community benefited. It has been fun as they love to participate,” Dr Gaceke said.

Besides the yoga exercises, they also hike on Mt Kenya and meditate. This, she said, helps bring them to harmony in the “three bodies” – mentally, physically and emotionally.

“With the demands of life, it is hard to find our good place, and millions of people do not have the tools to navigate the inside and that is why they look for external sources of happiness. But with yoga, one feels complete without attaching any happiness to anything outside themselves,” she said.

Dr Gaceke Simons, the yoga trainer with Ms Nderi meditate at her home yoga sanctuary.

Photo credit: Irene Mugo I Nation Media Group

Ms Carol Nderi, one of her trainees, said since she started the training a year ago she has become “self-aware, centred and grounded”.

Yoga is broad and teachers can come up with their own yoga types, Dr Gaceke said, and thus she has incorporated yoga and Ayurveda, a traditional Hindu system of medicine that includes the use of herbs to treat ailments.

“I have recently registered Gaceke Ayugoga, which is an 80-minute exercise that focuses on the three bodies that aims at bringing people to harmony, centre themselves and always be in their high self,” she said.

She noted that at the end of the training, everyone leaves with their own tailor-made yoga lifestyle that entails exercises that they are mostly comfortable with.

Ms Susan Mureithi, a resident of Wamunyoro village, said that since she started the exercises she sleeps better and feels good about herself.

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