Thursday afternoon is a special day for the elderly in Bugesera District. At about 2:30 pm the elderly men and women aged between 50 and 70 start trickling in at Aheza Healing Centre, some with the help of a walking stick.
It is not only an opportunity for them to meet and catch up but most importantly, it is the day that an instructor takes them through a one-hour yoga session.
63-year-old Caroline Mukandori is a regular member of this group of about 16. The slender, bubbly elderly woman is chatty, telling stories and jokes as old men and women roar in laughter.
Clad in a Kitenge outfit, she occasionally pauses her conversation to break into church hymns which she accompanies with a sway of her hips in a dance.
This is the Mukandori that everyone in this village in Bugesera District knows but behind this jolly exterior is a woman who has suffered great loss and grave physical pain.
Alexis Havugimana Muganwa is one of the yoga instructors at Aheza Healing Centre.
He says that his classes mostly involve physical movements, meditation and breathing exercises.
He explained that meditation works very well with the brain while breathing exercises with emotions, and consequently, they help in stress management.
“Breathing exercises are the most important. They take 70 per cent of the whole session. People tend to think that yoga is about stretching but it is much more than that. It involves the body, the mind and the soul,” he said.
He reminisced about the time these sessions started, laughing at what the reactions were from the different beneficiaries.
“They didn’t understand how at their age they can exercise. They asked me if they needed to wear particular outfits and the first sessions were full of laughter because they didn’t fully understand what they were doing,” he said.
However, Muganwa says that with time, the team got to love the exercises and many times have come back with feedback.