Fri | Sep 22, 2017

OMawale's clear state of mind

Published:Monday | November 23, 2015 | 11:01 AMJody-Anne Lawrence
Malika Omawale showing off her skills with the bird of paradise.
Omawale doing hands to feet.
Omawale showing off her skill in the yoga dancer pose.
Omawale doing the Monkey Pose.
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Thirteenth-century poet Rumi once said, "I have been a seeker, and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my soul." This is just what Malika Omawale did on her journey when she found yoga.

She was born and spent her early life in Jamaica. She was born to a Guyanese father, who changed his name to Omawale, which means 'the son who has returned' in

homage to his African background. Her mother was a dancer, Joan McLeod-Omawale, and she fondly remembers herself and her sister, Tchaiko Omawale, both watching their mother dance when she was a part of National Dance Theatre Company.

She followed some in her

mother's footsteps and started dancing at an early age. It was something she said she was always fond of.. Later, she studied a variety of styles, including Afro-Haitian, Cuban salsa, samba, jazz, flamenco, and modern dance. She performed with dance companies Rueda Con Ritmo, Las Que Son Son and Rara Tou Limen.

At just six years old, while her father worked with UNICEF, he was offered a position that required him to start traveling. The family left their home in Jamaica and made their way to Mozambique, then Bangkok in Thailand, and to a few more countries, including England, Sierra Leone and Yemen, all before her 16th birthday.

While you would think that this would be rough for a child, Omawale admits that she did not feel the effects of travelling until she had moved away from her family and was pursuing her master's in education at the Alliant International University in San Francisco.

"I always had my family and we were a tight-knit support group, so I never felt anything was missing when I moved from country to country. Yes, it was sad to lose my friends, especially in Thailand, but you got to meet other great people who were so loving and kind," she told Flair. However, moving away from the family unit made her homesick.

 

SOUL-SEARCHING

 

"When I was in San Francisco, and people would say, 'I had my neighbour or my best friend from childhood', that was when it struck me. I did not have that and it was also the first time being so far away from my family, so I did not have that or those friends. It had me wondering, 'who is Malika?' and 'where are all these people?'" she admitted.

She was thankful for social media then. Although in its early stages, when MySpace was the hot site, she found and reconnected with some of these people.

Still, there was something missing. She suffered from anxiety and was feeling a little depressed. She wanted to find a remedy that would get her off her anti-anxiety medication that would give her peace and help her to feel more balanced. Someone recommended yoga. She had already practised dancing, so when she started yoga, it was a

natural progression.

"It felt like I was coming home. There is nothing I can use to describe the first experience. It was the yoga high," she said, laughing.

After practising yoga for some time, she began to experience relief from the anxiety and depression which had plagued her. She also realised yoga sharpened her dancing skills, and that dancing helped her flexibility in yoga. This made her realise that blending them would be a bonus for her. She is not the first person to do so, but the mixture is one that has helped her physically and mentally.

Seeing how yoga had helped her, her sister encouraged her to practise teaching.

"When I was younger, I had a premonition that I needed to do something in my body that had that form of expression and I was not sure when that was. But after practising yoga for a while, it was my sister who reminded me about this and encouraged me to pursue it. She even paid for my first set of yoga training," she told Flair.

It appears that sisters know best, because while Omawale did not give up teaching in the public school system, she received a new passion and zeal as it pertained to yoga. She received more training until she was qualified to teach it and she shared it with her students. But it was not until a few years after she had moved to Panama to teach that she started OMawale Wellness Rhythms, playing on the 'OM' chant, and the first two

letters of her last name.

She blended her love for teaching and her passion for yoga and started teaching in January 2011 under OMawale Wellness Rhythms.

In 2013, she found her way back to her international home as she was in search for a new teaching job. There were vacancies in several different countries and then there was American International School of Kingston (AISK). It was like fate to see this vacancy because throughout all her travels, she had always had a longing to come home. She applied and in 2013, she returned home to start teaching at AISK.

She continued to teach yoga at Afya under her OMawale Wellness Rhythms. As of July 2015, she has been doing it full time. She now does consultations and private yoga consultations for all those who want to have personal classes, as well as hosting yoga retreats. Her first will be in January. She now feels she is doing what she was meant to and is able to share something she wished she found earlier in her life.

She would like to leave with young people: "Dream big and get to know and love yourself. Reach out for structured support through family, mentors, therapists or other healing modalities. Seek help without any shame at all in it. We are all here to learn and others have so much wisdom and insight to share. Take advantage! Learn what it is you love, work hard in those areas, challenge yourself and continue on that path while keeping an open mind.

"Travel as much as you can, live, work or study abroad for some time and experience life in a different way. Your life will be all the more blessed and enriched by this exposure. Make connections with people of like mind, establish a community of support. Be honest and loving, and make a contribution to uplift Jamaica."