It was depression and anxiety that led Banesa Tseki to yoga. She was 20 years old, living in Cape Town, trying to take charge of her mental and emotional state. “I used to see doctors and was given a lot of medication and instead of it helping me, I relied on it and forgot who I am,” she says.
word by Rea Khoabane
It was her kickboxing instructor, interestingly, who introduced the Lesotho-born Tseki to the practice of yoga, which led her on a more spiritual path. But she found the yoga studios in Cape Town lacking in representation. “There were no spaces for people of colour who are spiritually conscious to do yoga,” she says.
That same year she met a woman who introduced her to kundalini yoga and after two years of training, she became a certified teacher.
Now 30, Tseki (along with her business partner Anesu Mbizo) co-owns The Nest Space, one of the hippest and most Instagram-friendly yoga studios in Joburg. Best of
all? It’s a place where black and brown lovers of yoga feel comfortable and at home. Tseki started it as a space for those who needed to belong.
Situated in Greenside, the Nest Space is what Tseki describes as “African healing through yoga”. When you walk into the studio and its new café space (more on that later), you’ll see a board that reads: ‘The Movement – zero waste, vegan, natural, African. Our ancestors’ wildest dreams’.
Opened in 2018, the Nest is a spot of comfort and love, and it has interesting décor features such as African traditional masks, plants and African books and magazines (ART AFRICA, for example). “Everything about our décor is to remind people of their power. We built the studio like this so that people can know who we are, and what we’re about. We wanted to create a space of safety.”
And as important as the idea behind the Nest Space is, businesses also have to be sustainable, which is where the idea of the studio’s vegan café came in. It sells natural products made by black women right next to it.
“As much as yoga is a form of mind and soul, we’ve added the body, and this includes the food that we put in our bodies. We realised that all the cafés downstairs [in the building where the studio has an upstairs space] were filled with our students after classes, so we decided to open the vegan café.”
But Tseki is aware that when it comes to conscious healthy eating and leading a healthy lifestyle in general, accessibility is a problem for many. “Plant-based spirituality often comes with a heavy price tag, so with the new business we’ve added, we’re trying to keep our products lower on prices and, therefore, more accessible,” she says.
For Tseki, yoga heightens consciousness and gives a sense of purpose, while veganism is more about wanting to do better for the world one lives in. But as black people, how does one separate cultural practices such as slaughtering, which forms part of African spirituality and culture, from one’s own veganism and spiritual practice? Tseki says there needs to be careful line between culture and spirituality. “We are talking about health as opposed to morality,” she says. “We must also remember that in our culture, we don’t just slaughter but there’s ceremony or rituals performed to bless the meat and we use every piece of the animal. Nothing goes to waste.”
She continues: “I believe one can be 100% plant-based and still go home and slaughter a cow. Veganism is a diet lifestyle because in a spiritual sense we believe in subtle energy forces and we don’t have the ability to digest meat in a way that carnivores do.”
Which brings us back to the Nest’s store. “The concept is to show there is an alternative way of living, and to show a sustainable way of not harming anything.”
Tseki believes this business model will work because she and Mbizo have tapped into a market that was previously ignored. “People didn’t think that black people seek healing through spirituality, but they do. But even if they don’t, they will still support a business that is black-owned.”