11 June 2014
Last updated at 00:41
Sierra Leone may not be the kind of place you expect to find yoga. But thanks to a group called Yoga Strength, it is becoming increasingly popular. (Photos and text by Tommy Trenchard)
The organisation is headed by Tamba Fayia, once a child soldier in Sierra Leone's civil war, who in 2012 became the country's first qualified yoga teacher. He says yoga transformed his life.
Yoga Strength focuses on taking yoga to the people that need it. "I work on the streets, in the slums, in the schools" says Mr Fayia. He has even held a class on a remote river island in the jungle.
While Sierra Leone has long been at peace, many still suffer the mental effects of its 11-year civil war. The World Health Organization estimates there are 715,000 people with mental disorders.
With just one psychiatrist and poor mental health facilities in the country, Mr Fayia wants to use yoga to help them, as well as ordinary people, overcome their trauma and stress.
He teaches at Sierra Leone's only mental hospital in the east of Freetown, and therapists say the classes have led to clear psychological improvements in some patients. "It makes me feel light," one patient said.
Yoga Strength also runs weekly classes in a small room inside the national football stadium. The classes are attracting increasing numbers.
People from a wide range of backgrounds enjoy his classes, including expatriate workers in Freetown.
The organisation struggles for funding, and lacks basic facilities.
Mr Fayia's refusal to charge a fee for his classes does not help. Most of the week he works for free.
Some of his students show impressive talent. David Cole (pictured) recently followed in Mr Fayia's footsteps to become the country's second instructor.
With the next generation also getting involved, Mr Fayia sees a bright future for yoga in the small West African country.