The underlying essence of a Yoga Safari, or so we believe, is to marry yoga practice and the fundamentals of a safari into the same experience. The constructs of breath and beauty of presence lend themselves to both yoga and to the safari experience. Bringing the two together, and practicing yoga in the midst of some of the world’s most pristine wild areas, surrounded by wildlife, has the potential to heighten and increase a connection to nature, and an appreciation for her extraordinary beauty.
With a series of Yoga Safaris set up for next year, we decided to speak with Safari Yoga instructor Susie Wonfor in order to find out more about what brought her to Africa, how she got into the practice of Safari Yoga, and why Yoga Safaris are increasing in popularity in yoga circles.
Susie, please tell us about yourself, how you first came to Africa, and what makes you passionate?
My name is Susie Wonfor, I am from the UK, from a very rural part of the country called Suffolk. My love for Africa began in 1994. My brother was on a nomadic expedition, riding on horseback from Zimbabwe to Uganda. I traveled to meet him in Malawi and from there joined him for several weeks until we reached Nyika Plateau in the very north of Malawi. It was an extraordinarily beautiful and remote place and that is where the first seeds of my love for Africa began.
After that first visit I would return again in 1995 and 1998 to Malawi and then Uganda. In 1999 I decided to do an extended trip beginning in Cape Town and heading north to Botswana. It was there that I made Africa my home, teaching and then meeting my husband and having a family. In 2006 we moved on to Tanzania. I lived a very wonderful 13 years in southern and east Africa.
My greatest passion is seeking balance between my spiritual life and my earthly life. Seeing my children grow and blossom, exploring my path through yoga, meditation and connection to nature. Of course that passion is something I wish to share with others, as I know what balance and joy the practices of yoga can bring. This is why I love my teaching. It’s important to be of service and this is my way of being of service and helping others.
How did you first get into Yoga?
Yoga was something I fell into. I was not aware at the time just how much of an impact it would have on me and how deeply it would be integrated into my life. In just the first few classes I left feeling a very deep connection to myself. An awareness that I had not experienced before. I became intrigued by the effects this practice was having on me and just how much balance and peace it had brought to my day to day life.
With a regular morning practice, my days are transformed into being easy to manage, very focused and calm, having a great sense of peace and whatever comes along, you can deal with it…everything just seems to flow.
My level of physical fitness has profoundly changed. I have a stronger immune system and I have far greater energy levels. The benefits have been both profound and subtle.
How did the idea of a Yoga Safari first arise?
I think it all started when I spent time in the Okavango Delta. It was here where the seeds of my own yoga journey began, it was a spiritual awakening. Until that point I had never known a place that could bring me such profound peace and such a sense of wonder. Those feelings have come back to me through my yoga practice later on. I realized that my experience of the Okavango was a meditation and an initiation into something far greater than myself, and this was how the idea of combining nature and yoga began.
Nature and the wilderness provide us with everything we need to nurture a peaceful mind, a healthy body and also direct access to the universal life force or prana. The practices of yoga, also provide these balanced and important aspects for ourselves. So the combining of yoga and nature can be a very powerful experience.
How has Yoga transformed you as a person, and what is your preferred practice?
My introduction to yoga was in a style called Vinyasa flow, whereby you flow fluidly from one posture to another, holding each posture for a few breaths and them moving on. I was also taught Surya Namaskar. A very important sequence of postures practised in most branches of yoga and I practice this daily. I have always had a long term interest in the more dynamic styles of yoga including vinyasa and ashtanga yoga. I still value these greatly, but have also come to see great value in working more deeply and statically with asana and so like to combine deeper, longer held postures with more dynamic ways of working with breath and movement through asana.
I don’t strive to be able to achieve the most advanced postures. It doesn’t interest me to master all the postures and pursue an idea of “achievement” in this way. I value my body’s ability to develop, strength, flexibility and balance over time and just allow everything to unfold naturally.
I like to practice intuitively and will just follow what my body and mind need on a day to day basis. We have to really tune in to the body-mind connection and then we are able to provide ourselves with the best possible practice. Our minds and bodies are constantly in a flux of change, so yoga can allow us to adapt and flow with those changes. Yoga can provide us with everything we need in a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level.
What can someone expect from a Yoga Safari experience?
Bringing together the unspoiled, pure beauty of the Okavango with the healing and cleansing qualities of yoga though asana, pranayama and meditation, will have the potential to be both empowering and inspiring. My teachings are based on the great and ancient foundations of Hatha yoga. We will work with both static posture work, moving deeply into breathwork with asana and combine this with exploring sequences with a vinyasa flow. We will practice simple meditation and breathing techniques to provide a well-rounded and well balanced yoga experience. Discovering the Okavango Delta through Yoga will be a life changing experience.