The donations sent to the St Francis Care Centre, Johannesburg, have now passed AUD$13,000.
Thank you to all our generous donors.
Julie's Melbourne yoga students discovered that she always wanted to see Uluru in the centre of Australia and they raised the money to send her. Julie visited Uluru and Alice Springs In September-October 2011 and her dream became a wonderful reality.
Julie in front of a salt lake
Sannyasi Chin Maya, Australia
Julie Wentworth, June 2006
I went to Johannesburg to help the HIV/AIDS children with yoga; to keep their bodies healthy a little longer, to work with the dying, and to train nursing staff.
My first place was Nkosi's Haven, run by Gail Johnson. On my first day, I taught three classes straight without a break. Two with children, and then with the mothers. The children were healthy and full of energy, all on anti-retroviral drugs, and they responded well. They loved saying the animal names, as they moved into the asanas. I can still hear their whispers in unison when I practice my own yoga. Cobra. Crocodile. Snake. The favourite asana was Sarvangasana. Little soft wobbly bodies going up on shoulders - if I felt we didn't have time in a class, they would remind me and ask for it.
One teenage girl asked rudely "What good does yoga do you?" I replied "I had a cancer in 1988 and was slit up the middle of my stomach and I know I would be dead with cancer secondaries, but for my yoga." Her eyes went big and round with shock, "You had CANCER!" That was far more serious to her, than her own HIV/AIDS.
The second place was Sizanani Village, and here I worked with the dying, trained staff, help feed the disabled, and gave yoga nidra to abused women. In the Hospice, Pawanmuktasana 1 was so beneficial. Even to get them to move the head slowly from side to side, and keep circulation and prana moving a little longer was an effort. When feet were too painful to move, I would stroke them. A hand underneath, and a hand on top, stroking the pain away down to the tips of their toes and off. Then back again to the tops of the feet. I trained staff in Pawanmuktasana 1, and in stroking the whole body, especially the feet. At 4.00pm I would move to the disabled, shouting for their dinner, and help feed them. One boy was in a cot, lying on his back, who could not sit up. He was twenty years old.
There was an area of high security for abused women. A high spiked fence all around. Two security boxes and buzzers at the gate had to be passed before you could get in. There were some very young women in there. Some had never relaxed in their life. Two, went sound asleep on my first visit. Yoga nidra is much needed for these women.
When parents die of HIV/AIDS, children are left with no means of food or shelter, so the girls go out, and sell themselves to buy food for their younger brothers and sisters until they are infected. Father Charles who started Sizanani over thirty years ago, was very upset at just hearing of a ten year old girl, who had given birth to a baby. In the St Josephs' Hospice was a huge poster with a sad little girl's face. Underneath was written in big letters: NO SEX - NO SCHOOL! There is no Medicare or Social Welfare to help these children.
Over thirty years ago Father Charles picked up three babies, left on the side of the road. He could not drive past and leave them -three girls. They have always lived with him, and know how lucky they are. One is now his Secretary, another his housekeeper, and the third works away from the village, but lives there.
My third place was St Francis Care Centre. I arrived on a Sunday and my time-table hadn't been organized. The manager of the centre did not work weekends and I went into the two-to-three year olds area, and sat for four hours straight, with a little one on my knee, giving a nurse, a cuddle, one after the other from 8.30am to 12.30pm. 'Muma', 'Muma' they called when they saw me, little arms raised to be picked up. The staff have no time. Then at 12.30pm I was called to have lunch. This was where I was giving classes to the staff on a daily basis. Nursing staff went 'off the planet' doing yoga, they loved it. One charge sister said to me one morning, 'Julie, I finished my shift last night with two dying babies, I started my shift this morning with a dying baby, it is so draining, we need yoga!'
Prana Mudra, Setuasana, Paschimotanasana, a simplified Shalabasana, Bhujangasana, Sarvangasana, Nagapasana and some shoulder and neck rotations were the basis and main asanas.
All the children and patients in the palliative care section had HIV/AIDS. Once you have heard that cough, you never forget it. The virus is in the lungs, and time is short. At this centre I was fortunate to find a candle, and always to have a vase of fresh flowers alongside me as I taught, to lift the vibration of the room. A class I will always remember is when nineteen people came at 9.00am from the antiretroviral support group, for their first ever yoga class. All shapes, sizes, ages. One woman in a tailored cream suits, stockings, and hat with a veil, did the entire hour dressed like that. I never commented, didn't blink an eye. They were timid, a little fearful, but they all came and stayed. Each one fighting HIV/AIDS.
I flowed with people and taught the whole time I was there. It was as though my whole life had taught, and prepared me, and trained me, for my time with these people. It was as though I was ON COURSE, and all the organization and planning unfolded perfectly, every step of the way. Fifty booklets of the postures, with photos and explanations were given out in the three centres where I worked, so they could continue yoga; and these were greatly appreciated.
As well as visiting South Africa, I also went to Sri Lanka, as I was asked by the Venerable Bhante Kassapa to come, and give a talk to doctors and nurses on meditation. A few years ago he was asked by a group of doctors, to come down to Kandy once a week, and teach them how to meditate. This he had been doing for the last few years, and the group had grown to over eighty, and not all were Buddhists. I thought I was only to give a talk on the Thursday. Little did I know I would be teaching the day I arrived, and every day while I was there!
At a village meditation session I was introduced by Bhante, and then a little grey haired old lady asked what could help her pains in the knees, and hips. A man asked for help with his back. Bhante told me he was sick and tired of the Buddhist nuns complaining of their aches and pains, so please could I help them also? I couldn't speak Sri Lankan, they couldn't speak English. Bhante had done yoga seventeen years ago with a German Teacher, until he had two operations in the side of his torso, and had lapsed after that. He ended up on the floor with them, red robes flying between legs and shoulders, and likewise the nuns. A few days before I left, he told me, "Julie, I was so happy after yoga the other day I cried for joy!" That's yoga!
This article originally appeared in Satyananda Yoga Sangha e-Newsletter, Nov-Dec 2005, Satyananda Yoga Mangrove, Australia.