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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Spence

Disability Is Not Inability; Meet Chris Mandela

"There was a time I felt that me being deaf is stopping me from achieving my goals."

Chris created a sign language yoga manual to be shared with the world

As my dedicated readers know, I'm always on the lookout for inspiring souls to share with you. I've found that one way to get into inspired action is to surround myself with and support yoga teachers around the world who are making a difference.

I hope you enjoy the following Q&A with Chris:

StephanieSpence (SS):

How/when did you find yoga and why? 

Chris Mandela (CM): I found yoga through a friend in the year 2014. I used to sell clothes at one of the markets in Nairobi called Muthurwa. My friend Amos (who is now an Alumni of Africa Yoga Project) invited me to a session at a place called Sarakasi and offered me transport to join. The practice made a huge impact on how I felt with my body. I realized I was too stressed from selling clothes and the practice of yoga gave me access to release and freedom in my body.

SS. What kept you coming back? 

CM: I kept coming back because of many reasons. One of the reasons was the community. I was able to interact with people who were all so happy and free to interact with. I found inclusivity in the community. No discrimination of color or disability. Another reason is because I got lots of connections from attending yoga sessions. I was able to be trained as a contemporary dancer and have been dancing and doing yoga ever since. Lots of mentorship programs have made me grow as the leader I am today.  

SS: How do you use yoga to move through a challenging time? 

CM: Yoga has taught me how to meditate and actually breathe. During day to day life I encounter challenges and stressful situations and breath has become a powerful tool to always calm me down and compose myself. I also take other teacher’s classes and sweat it out and find deep relaxation after practice which allows me to think clearly and approach situations in a more thoughtful way.

SS: What shift - of ah-ha moment/experience helped you make a shift in your life/awareness/consciousness? 

CM: Having consistent clients and plenty of opportunities my way made me realize I am special and I can do anything I want to do if I put my mind to it. I used to limit myself saying I can't do things because I am deaf and once I switched that mentality, opportunities came my way.

SS: What is your self-care "thing" you can't do w/out (besides yoga)? 

CM: Dance. I love dancing and just putting out all my emotion in dance and expressing myself.

SS: When was a time in your life that things didn't go great and what action did you take? 

CM: There was a time I felt that me being deaf is stopping me from achieving my goals. Having regrets on why I was born deaf. Action that I took is looking back at all the achievements that I have gained and also see the impact I have done in my life and people around me and I there then made a switch that made me realize i am special and need to be proud of myself more. 

SS: What does "living your best life" mean to you?

CM: Having a happy family by my side, ability to teach yoga and do my dance. I can say I am on the right path to living my best life.

SS: What in your life needs healing right now? 

CM: Been dealing with this for a while now and I do know what to do. I need to make peace with my mum to experience healing, love and connection with her. I will be working on this particular issue.

SS: Where do you see yoga in the next 5 and/or 10 years? 

CM: I see myself teaching other deaf teachers on how to teach yoga. Hoping to own a studio to have a silent yoga session and massage therapy sessions in 5 years. I love my family and having 2 more kids. In my dance career, I will be performing internationally not only locally to share the word that truly disability is not inability.

"I am just an open book, willing to share and be seen."

Chris attended his first yoga class in 2014 and immediately felt grateful to be in a space of so much growth and learning. He loved interacting with new people from all over the world, trying a new workout and finding a new experience. Immediately he noticed the physical benefits of increased flexibility and strength, better sleep, and feeling overall healthy.  The practice helped a lot in his career as a dancer because after yoga, dance would seem so much easier than usual.  

Chris also felt welcomed into yoga at Africa Yoga Project because on his first day he met people of all types of people and a sense of inclusion was felt. In 2015 he completed his 200-hour teacher training and was inspired to start teaching and give back to the community.

He knows that yoga has given him the ability to make better choices and to stay calm and consider the best choice instead of reacting. Yoga has also empowered him and increased his confidence. Chris wants to bring yoga to everyone so that they can also be empowered to choose health and yoga rather than get stuck in unhealthy habits and drugs. Chris has done lots of additional training including art of assisting, kids’ yoga, yoga for special child, acro-yoga and more. 

Chris intends opening his own studio to teach silent yoga for both the hearing and the deaf of all ages. Come to Chris' class and be greeted with lots of smiles, connection, strong assists and flowing Baptiste-style power yoga. If you attend Chris’ class you will experience strong assists, lots of smiles and connection, and Chris’ favorite pose is handstand.


I am hoping you'll share this story with everyone who needs a little inspiration today.

For more information on Chris, his manual, or the Africa Yoga Project you can find them here, on Facebook and/or on Instagram

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