Banesa Tseki, a yoga teacher and co-owner of a Johannesburg-based inclusive wellness centre known as The Nest Space, owes much of her mental wellness to yoga. Diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder at 15, Banesa was placed on anti-depressants and anxiety meds that made her completely numb.
“In an attempt to ease my pain, the meds made me completely numb. Granted I could no longer feel the pain, but I could also no longer feel joy nor happiness and that was too big a sacrifice for me. There had to be another way,” she shares.
Then things took an interesting turn when she moved to Cape Town for university in 2008…
“In Cape Town I came across breathwork, meditation and yoga through a five-day course offered by a society called Art of Living at the University of Cape Town. I did the course and was hooked for good,” recalls Banesa.
Plus, signing up for the course made sense since she’d just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, but lacked practice in the book’s teachings. With regular practice, Banesa found yoga to be an incredible healing tool that later stood her in good stead when she went off the depression and anxiety meds.
When she moved to Johannesburg in 2015, Banesa met Itta ‘Ravi’ Roussos, who became her kundalini yoga teacher.
“I trained in community-based yoga at African Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training of Southern Africa (AKYTTSA), whose motto is ‘social justice is a spiritual practice’, and served on the founding board. Itta was big on teaching yoga to more people of colour so we could go back and spread the teachings in our communities,” shares Banesa, who’s since taught yoga to both adults and children in various community centres and townships.
YOGA AND HEALING
Banesa is also a full-time head yoga coach at Shapa Soweto powered by Nike, where she teaches roughly 10 sessions weekly. “I’m more suited for community-based, rather than studio, yoga,” she notes before continuing: “Our yoga is trauma-based. It’s for the disadvantaged, and people who’ve experienced trauma, to use this healing modality to connect to an inner power that will encourage them to take control of their lives.”
On the relationship between yoga and healing, Banesa explains:
“A lot of the time, emotions are experienced through our body or breath. When we’re sad or excited, the rhythm of our breath adjusts to the emotion we’re experiencing,” she says, warning that unprocessed emotions usually manifest as tension in our bodies.
She explains that unless one works through these emotions, that feeling of discomfort just sits there. Her advice? Being aware of that tension and where it sits, then working through it to release the trapped emotion. “As this tension is released, a lot of people in my classes start crying or going through something. That’s because there’s therapy through the body, and talking is just another form,” she says. Through the body, she adds, we release emotions without necessarily naming them.
THE BUSINESS OF YOGA
Banesa and her business partner Dr Anesu Mbizvo opened The Nest Space in 2018, and pivoted online during lockdown. In November last year, they reopened their boutique wellness centre in Parktown North, Johannesburg, which now features a yoga studio, a vegan café and a zero-waste grocer in. With that said, cheers to healing – may we embrace it wholeheartedly!