Life in Alexandra

Alex is one of the poorest urban areas in South Africa1, where the community is squashed into an area of an astonishing 25,979 people per square km, one of the highest population densities of any township in South Africa2. Alex is estimated to have more than 20,000 shacks where residents live, some of which are made from cardboard boxes3. Over 50% of its residents are unemployed, and this desperation has led Alex to be one of the worst precincts in Gauteng for crime4.

Amid this chaos, youngsters have a slim path out of poverty, and the hardships of life are often too overwhelming for them to believe that a better life is possible. Many youngsters’ minds are understandably rooted in negativity, fear, and frustration. For those lucky enough to make it to their matric year, the stress and anxiety are amplified exponentially, as their first attempt at matric is their best opportunity to achieve a matric certificate and a better life for them and any family they might have.

Photo from

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Only 34% of individuals from Alex pass matric1, and for this small group, opportunities for employment can increase significantly if they are able to attend a tertiary institute. The unemployment rate among individuals with tertiary education is as low as 5%5. However, given the rising costs of university or college education and with the average household income in Alex just above R 30,0006, youngsters from Alex can often times only access higher education if they receive a scholarship or loan, requiring even higher academic success and further intensifying the pressure upon school students. 

Yoga promotes self-confidence and self-reliance in youngsters by shaping the subconscious mind and recoding the roots of how people view, experience, and react to the world around them.

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In an environment where there is frustration and negativity, yoga brings feelings of hope and optimism. Yoga4Alex strives to eliminate the fear of failure that some youngsters can possess in Alex and replace it with remarkable self-confidence that everyone is capable of succeeding in all aspects of their lives. Youngsters who persist in coming to yoga classes establish a work ethic and sense of personal responsibility that enables them to be self-reliant.

Yoga improves youngsters’ ability to cope with anxiety and overcome challenges. Studies have shown that yoga significantly reduces biological triggers tied to anxiety and depression. Yoga cannot change the hardships in Alex and will not eliminate the numerous challenges that confront youngsters, but it can help youngsters develop the mindfulness to cope with anxiety and the determination to overcome the obstacles that are thrown at them. Yoga4Alex intentionally draws a parallel between themes in a yoga class and those experienced in life, including pushing through hardship, focusing on one’s self-worth, and striving for one’s goals in creative ways.

Yoga4Alex enhances general health and well-being by capitalizing on the scientifically proven benefits of yoga, meditation, and relaxation. The exercises and positions are physically challenging, improving flexibility, building muscle strength, and increasing endurance. The yoga sessions also have health benefits such as increasing blood flow, boosting the immune system, and inducing healthier sleep patterns.


1. Johannesburg Poverty & Livelihood Study 

2. Census 2011

3. Spotlight Africa


5. Statistics South Africa 


Alfi Oloo