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Sisters give up rat race to show Durbanites how to live their best lives through yoga

Sisters Nosizwe and Nomzamo Mji left their respective lives in New York and Johannesburg, where the former was a yoga instructor and the latter was an advocate, and returned to their hometown of Durban to found the Toolbox, a wellness centre where they plan to share their ideas of what modern wellness means.

What is your elevator pitch response to the question: What is the Toolbox?

A place to come and get tools that promote wellbeing. Humans don’t come with a manual; we pick up tools along the way to figure out how we work and how to live our best lives. Yoga is a tool that has shaped our lives powerfully and that is why it is our first offering.

What are the founding principles of this space?

Yoga is for every body (pun intended). We believe strongly in inclusion rather than exclusion. You don’t have to be deep, alternative, thin, flexible or eat kale to come to the Toolbox. Come as you are. It takes courage to pick up the tools and to do the work to design the life that you want. We offer the tool of yoga, which is ultimately about bending the mind and not the body.

How was the first day of business?

Great! In that the day finally came. There was a lot of anticipation and anxiety and it felt good to just get it over with. It was sobering, in that we faced the reality that it was only the first day and that it was the beginning of ongoing work, and there was also relief because people came and everything worked. When someone stepped into the shower, we realised for the first time that we had not tested it ourselves.

Describe what the place looks like.

The studio sits in the bottom half of a garden. It is shaped like a chapel, with high ceilings and wooden floors. It has two bathrooms with clear-view ceilings that maintain a flow between the inside and outside of the studio. We’ve kept the inside of the studio bare. We want to give the space the time to grow into its personality. Once you step out of the studio, you step in a tropical Durban garden which Nosizwe, the budding gardener, is always trying to tame and shape.

Each of you has contributed to the creation of the space, so what is each sister’s strength?

Nosizwe: I have been based in Durban since the beginning. I oversaw renovation, construction and gardening. My lane is the physical office.

Nomzamo: My lane has been the virtual or back office, focusing on the systems and the operations of the space.

What kind of activities are on offer?

For now we have daily yoga classes, all days except Friday. Beyond teaching asana (physical postures), we want to share all aspects of the broader life science of yoga through discussions, screenings and workshops. We are also talking to people with a variety of tools to approach wellbeing – art teachers, music teachers, massage therapists, running clubs, film clubs and book clubs. We want the Toolbox to be a hub of many activities for a diverse group of people. We want it to be a space of connection.

What do your parents think of it?

They’re proud of us. We couldn’t have done it without them. Even though there were points in our journey that they didn’t understand, they still held the space for us to explore. This process of manifesting our dream has brought us into a closer understanding of each other. They can now see what we meant all along.

The Toolbox is located at 260 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Musgrave, Durban. Formore information, email [email protected], call 078 868 3994, or visit thetoolbox on Facebook or @thetoolbox260 on Instagram. 

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Milisuthando Bongela
Milisuthando Bongela is the Mail & Guardians arts and culture editor. She is a multi award-winning writer, blogger and collaborator. She has experience in the arts having worked in fashion, music, art and film as well as a decade-long career in consulting, entrepreneurship, blogging and cultural activism. She is also directing a documentary about hair and black identity, a film she calls the report card on the rainbow nation project.

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