Yoga gives children coping skills

She makes it sound so easy.

Sanae Sawada is a Japanese-born single mom, and an immigrant, and she’s talking about the long reaching affects of yoga on a child’s development, listing all the schools that she teaches in, and is all but actually bubbling.

Sanae is behind the fluttery “I love you” message written in butterflies in Olympia Cafe and Deli in Kalk Bay, and the butterfly hearts on the walls of the same area. This is part of what she terms her Butterfly Effect Art Project, which helps to raise funds to enable her to teach yoga to children who most need it.

Sanae is the driving force of her own form of educational yoga, which she has adapted to the children of Athlone, or Kalk Bay, or Ocean View.

And she is unaffectedly curious, and ambitious about what the future holds.

She’s caught a wind current, and the years of work and preparation she has put in have suddenly taken wing.

Sanae works at St James RC Primary School with principal Lynette Saunders and all the teachers and she works with Grade 4 teacher Awsma Mammatt Waggie at Kleinberg Primary School.

“The children, no matter where I teach, respond almost intrinsically to yoga. We live in a frenetic world, (and) teaching children how to cope with untenable levels of stress is a great service to them. We can’t prevent the pace and challenges of their world, but we can provide them with superior coping skills,” she says.

She’s had buy-in for her butterfly effect art project from the Kalk Bay Trading Post, the Kalk Bay Garden Shop Front Porch, Nicki Clothing, Catacombs, Joy Collectables and the I Am Love Revolution.

“I know life gets busy, and we often think the thing that we want to do won’t solve the world’s problems. But we are often drawn to offer that particular thing for a reason, so I would encourage people to act on those urgings. We don’t do things alone… everything I achieve I have help with. And people are good for one another. We can help each other realise each other’s goals and dreams. That’s the teamwork aspect that amazes me,” she said.

Her deepest philosophy is about finding the win-win angle in every situation, acting in the best interests of all. It may not be the standard world approach, but it’s one she is invested in and the one she chooses – and it works for her (and the people she engages with).

She says the butterfly art enchants people – who open up like children while making the butterflies, and naturally find commonalities in one other.

And the children’s yoga is similar for her, she approaches the children in the spirit of Namaste, which she says takes all the layers away and reveals “their shining beings”, she says.

In so doing, she responds to the academic needs of the children too. So, in Kleinberg, the Grade 4 teacher Ms Mammatt Waggie joins Sanae in a tactile learning style where they include maths or natural sciences with movement.

The children who learn kinesthetically (by moving) have responded remarkably, and they thoroughly enjoy incorporating movement and yoga into their studies.

“It’s about finding what they need and offering them the option to learn in the way they process best,” Sanae says.

Thanks to the efforts and continuous support of Kalk Bay communities and St James RC Primary School over the past two years, Sanae is proud to say that her yoga classes (known as The Light Workshop) will be joining The SevaUnite Trust to bring yoga to youth from underprivileged backgrounds.

The SevaUnite Trust is a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing yoga to as many communities that might not be easily exposed to it and sharing its benefits with as many people as possible. The Prison Freedom Project (PFP), The SevaUnite Trust’s flagship yoga programme, teaches yoga to offenders in South Africa in an attempt to reduce crime and assist men and women to return to their communities as contributing members of society.

Through this partnership, Sanae will be able to reach more schools across the Cape Peninsula, and take the specific skills that the children need, into their classrooms.

At Rocklands High School in Mitchell’s Plain, Sanae took what is called a “sleeping yoga” into the classes.

“They were like babies, they learned how to relax and give their bodies a chance to restore from all the pressures they carry,” she said.

Sanae, undeterred by the learned ideas that many people carry about being incapable or too busy or too tired, is only looking up and forward. The joy of what she is doing is the reward and the renewable.

“If you have something you are called to do, just start it,” she says. “And discover for yourself the incredible power of community sup-
port.”