Refiloe Nyoni is a Registered Yoga Teacher who trained in Thailand under the Absolute Yoga Academy. She was also once a PA to the Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa when he was the Executive Chairman of Shanduka Group.
I sat down with her for a chat about her love for Yoga and what to expect from Kulture Klash this weekend.
Kiki: When did you fall in love with yoga and what drew you to it?
Refiloe: I started Yoga 10 years ago, that was in 2008. For the first couple of years I tapped in and out of it; I’d be diligent for three months and then stay away for another three and so the cycle continued until in 2012 when I went to do my first Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand and opened my first Yoga studio, that’s when yoga became the bulk of my life.
Kiki: Have you always been a fitness/sporty person even when you growing up?
Refiloe: I did every sport imaginable whilst I was at school, but ballet was the one I remembered the most. I was a ballerina for 12 years, from ages 5 to 17. It helped me to form my body and it instilled in me a level of discipline I did not find with other sports. It appreciated me as an individual. In my matric year, I saw an insert on Top Billing on Bikram (hot) yoga and I was fascinated – the postures (asanas) and the body lines could easily be likened to what I learnt in my ballerina training. There was something about yoga that reminded me about ballet. It might have been the stretching, it might have been the breathing, it might have been the focus required – perhaps it was a combination of all of those elements that I became so drawn to. After watching the Top Billing insert, I surfed the interwebs to find out more about this yoga thing. I downloaded postures and instructions and created a file that would serve as a guideline. I turned my bedroom into a yoga haven and did yoga on my own in this manner for a couple of years before I officially stepped into an actual yoga studio in 2008.
Kiki: Oh wow, you have come a looooong way. You know some of us are clueless on certain topics or activities. Till today, I don’t understand how people lose weight during Yoga. How does that happen? Don’t we lose weight through sweating?
Refiloe: Hahahaha, I am living proof. In 2009 I partook in an 8 week yoga challenge. The challenge entailed practicing 5 classes a week for 8 weeks. I lost close to 8kgs in that time which of course was a great incentive to continue, but more than that I started to feel pretty on the inside. My eating habits were altered without force. I drank plenty of water without having to think about it. Eating and drinking well came naturally because my body was now craving the good stuff.
Kiki: Talk about dedication. 8 weeks? You were definitely ready for it.
Refiloe: I was into it. And you know else? During the 8 weeks I noticed that all the yoga classes ended in a particular way, with the teacher closing the class with the greeting “Namaste”. I did some research and found out that “Namaste” is a Sanskrit word that means, “the divine in me honours and acknowledges the divine within you.” This, I believe, is when my true love for yoga was cemented. My suspicions had been confirmed, that being, yoga is unlike any other form of exercise – it strengthens and rehabilitates every single part of a person, not just the physical.
Kiki: They say it’s good for the soul. Mmmmmh
Refiloe: I honestly didn’t realise until my first formal yoga class how much baggage I was carrying and how it had it had manifested itself in different forms both in my body and in my life. I knew but I didn’t know because I didn’t want to face myself – I didn’t want to know. It always seemed so much easier to ignore myself and my issues…or so it seemed. Being an insecure overachiever means that I try hard to fight what I deem to be the unworthy parts of myself to the extent that I am so hard-core and rigid in an attempt to ignore struggle. Through my yoga practice I have no part of me that is an orphan; all aspects of myself deserve to be seen and heard because that’s the only way they can adequately be dealt with. It’s not about shunning what is imperfect, it’s about unconditional co-existence. I am no longer able to ignore myself and that’s something that holds its own complexities.
My body talks to me and I have to listen. When I feel unpleasant in an area, I am forced to examine what I am refusing to accept or deal with in my life. We live in a society where we are constantly told and taught that we are unique, that each of us are different and wonderful yet we are expected to do and want the same things. The result of that is there is very little room to “be yourself” without fear of criticism or judgment and so we fake perfection instead. Perfection is relative, it’s a personal story. For as long as fake perfection or try to make ours identical to another’s we are living in worlds that will never complete us because our personal truths, fears and courage, strengths and weaknesses will never be legitimate. Until they are, nothing can change, and “nothing” includes ourselves. I used to struggle with myself a lot. I used to feel as though my darkness was so much bigger than anyone I know but I’m better now. With yoga I began to accept the process of struggling and breathing through hardships. I began to trust the process of life and that of my own metamorphosis. Buddha says, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” This has helped me through a lot of yoga postures when I felt I just couldn’t do it. When it gets uncomfortable, instead of trying to manipulate and control, sometimes all you need to do is breathe and allow the discomfort to eventually subside. I am getting better at accepting myself just as I am and in turn I am more able to accept others just as they are and to be more comfortable with their authenticity. I feel a lot less challenged and a lot more worthy and secure.
Kiki: I was actually talking to a friend of mine and she mentioned that she tried yoga in the past but she felt she was too big for it. Is there anything like that, being too big for yoga?
Refiloe: There seems to be a misconception that to do yoga you have to be skinny and flexible. It’s not true. Yoga is not about being fat or skinny, it’s about being yourself. Our respective anatomies as human beings are so varied, each of our bodies are different. From that point of departure, it’s a waste of time to think that someone’s definition of “fat” or “skinny” will be identical to mine. It’s about working with what you have to get what you want, cultivating discipline and focus whilst working towards authenticity. It’s not yoga perfect, it’s yoga practice; yoga is for the willing. Any deterrent exists only in the mind, which is the place where all limitations are created and reproduced. There’s no such thing as being “too big for yoga.”
Kiki: As you mentioned, there are misconceptions about Yoga out there. What advice would you give to someone that’s starting out and has never done Yoga before?
Refiloe: Yoga is for anyone who wants to take the journey within whilst strengthening their body, mind and spirit and bringing a level of holistic healing to one’s life. There’s a quote, which of course is not my own words, but perfectly describes what my advice would be. “Yoga is not about being bendy…It’s about showing up on your mat consistently not knowing what is going to happen and being okay with that. It’s about rehabilitating yourself and not believing the “experts” when they say you are too injured or too old. It’s about believing that you can do anything, even if it’s the scariest impossible thing you could ever dream of. It’s about being kind to yourself so that you can then be kind to others. Yoga is about discovering that most crazy thoughts in your head are not true. It’s about being healthy without pushing yourself to your limit. It’s about slowing down to get strong. It’s about breathing and moving and smiling on the inside. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the best
Yoga does not and should not hinder one’s religious beliefs. Modern yoga as a practice and philosophy has little to do with praising or worshiping an idol of any sort. It’s a sequence of techniques in re-balancing the body and the mind. When the body and the mind can work together, in union, not operating as mutually exclusive entities against one another, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being are induced.
Kiki: You co-own Kulture Klash with Aimee and Bianca. You are also a mother. What has been the most challenging part of being a woman in business?
Refiloe: Hmmmm. I really have to think about this one. I have known Aimee and Bianca for more than 25 years of my life so this is pretty much a family business because we consider each other sisters. The biggest challenge for me was to learn how to respectfully disagree with two people I adore without taking the disagreements as a personal attack of any sort. I’ve had to learn when to step in and outside of friendship and when to step in and outside of business because it’s so easy for the two to be intertwined. It’s taken a lot of practice, effort, more practice and more effort…and the challenge remains. On the parenting front, the balance of both has been seamless – Kulture Klash is an environment where my children are both welcome and loved, because of this they are scarcely neglected.
Kiki: This Saturday you will be launching the yoga studio and the new premises for Surori and Desch Women. What can guests expect from your (yoga) side?
Refiloe: Kulture Klash is such a special place. Our guests can expect to experience the discovery of a hidden and sacred treasure designed for us and for them. They can expect to learn that connecting with oneself is easy and can be lots of fun. My favourite part of the programme is the scheduled meditation. A lot of people I know feel intimidated by meditation to the point that achieving world peace would be a far easier feat than any attempts at a meditation practice. They can expect to learn how easy and worthwhile yoga and meditation can be.
About Refiloe: Refiloe Nyoni is a Registered Yoga Teacher with 200 hours of Teacher Training) (RYT 200). She trained in Thailand under the Absolute Yoga Academy in Koh Samui, Thailand and qualified in the Absolute sequence. In 2013 she returned to Thailand to join the Absolute Yoga teacher training team and was certified as a 200 hour Teacher Trainer
Refiloe forms one third of Kulture Klash, a company co-founded with Aimee and Bianca Sadie. She is a council member for the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Youth Commission. Prior to these roles, Refiloe served as Head of Leadership Development Programmes at the South African chapter of the International Women’s Forum (IWFSA) and President of Young Leaders Connect, a programme of the IWFSA.
Refiloe was also a Project Manager for the Shanduka Foundation. She joined Shanduka in 2008 initially working in the office of the Executive Chairman, Cyril Ramaphosa. She is passionate about strategic leadership, self-leadership, mindfulness and personal mastery.
“I see a world where the youth of my country can let go of the things they wish they had never learned and start cultivating the lessons they wish to teach. Step out of the shadows, grow where you are planted.”
Kulture Klash, is basically the best one stop shop – The Yoga Studio for Kids & Adults, Fashion (Surori & DESCH Women) and The Café that has the yummiest smoothies and Coffees…..and they also have free wi-fi. You can pay them a visit;
21A, 7th Avenue
Cell: 076 845 6098
You can also keep in touch with them on social media:
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – @KultureKlashSA
I read this interview for almost 20 mins. It’s long but I enjoyed it. Very informative. Women are excelling in business and that makes me happy. We need to make our presence felt.