I sit in a comfortable cross-legged position but instead of tuning in, I’m thinking what am I doing here with just one student in front of me. I’m imagining all those useful things I could be doing at the moment, or maybe not so useful even, just some “me time”. But he came to the class, as he does every day, so I guess it’s important for him. He is a refugee from Afghanistan, so I hope it’s important for him. He probably walked 1 hour from the camp where he lives and this class could the highlight of his day so the useful things can definitely wait.
The class with one student is not usual, normally I spend ten-twenty minutes before the class walking around the center that provides us space and asking every single person if they want to join the class. Most of them don’t know what yoga is, so I have to explain in simple terms. Most of them don’t speak English so I have to find somebody to translate. Often this takes more energy than the class itself.
But that last smile after “Namaste” is worth it all, traveling here, arranging accommodation and practicalities, walking in the rain, waiting for an hour for the bus in burning sun, everything – even sometimes it seems like it’s not.
We talk a lot about values of yoga, often spreading them only to those who can pay for it. Before coming to Lesvos I was looking for opportunities to teach to less fortunate ones and it’s not easy. There are websites with offers to “volunteer” or to be “karma yogi” teaching at yoga retreats, spa and Ayurveda centers, yoga resorts but is this volunteering? It is actually just helping others to make money out of yoga while offering your time and effort for free or in exchange for food and accommodation.
Volunteering is going beyond one’s ego. Even if teaching two classes a day I feel like I don’t make enough of a difference. I sign up for night patroling shifts, cleaning and helping in other centers, doing fundraising for things more essential to refugees than well being. Things that really make difference. There are many ways to help, from home, through money – which can be more effective than in the field- or by coming here. If you want to walk part of this path, let me know.