A BBC feature on yoga in Sierra Leone gives insight into a growing movement in a country healing from trauma. The series focuses on the work of an organization called Yoga Strength and it’s main (and possibly only) yoga teacher, Tamba Fayia. In 2012, Fayia became the country’s first certified yoga teacher and now offers free yoga classes around Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. “I work on the streets, in the slums, in the schools,” Fayia told the BBC.
The former child soldier was introduced to yoga a few years ago by a grad student studying trauma in post-war societies. While the grad student moved on, the power of yoga stayed with Fayia, who continued to practice on his own and then train in teaching yoga to share the benefits of the practice. The west African country was ravaged by a civil war from 1991 to 2002 which left more than 50,000 people dead and destroyed the country’s infrastructure. More than a decade after the end of the war, the people of Sierra Leone still feel the effects, with an estimated 715,000 people suffering from mental disorders according to the World Health Organization. There are apparently inadequate health services to serve the population, with just one psychiatrist and one mental hospital in the whole country.
Whether the yoga classes are on a muddy soccer field or in a room in a rundown stadium, Favia’s efforts to bring yoga to his community are a small source of peace and possibility for a traumatized population.
All photos by Tommy Trenchard via BBC.com. Watch a slideshow of the full series here.