Zen PARLY STYLE
Deputy Speaker wants to use exercise to release trauma in the National Assembly
I’m lying curled in the foetal position, only with arms and hands extended like a praying mantis, on the floor of Lechesa Tsenoli’s corner office at Parliament. It is lunchtime on Thursday. Tsenoli (59), deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, is standing in mohair socks near my head, speaking slowly, telling me to breathe in, then out. Somewhere behind me are his discarded leather shoes. Raindrops are pelting the windows and just down the corridor in the Marks Building, Economic Freedom Fighters commander in chief Julius Malema is about to address journalists on his party’s mooted suspension by Speaker Baleka Mbete. Right now all that feels very, very far away. Lying with my right cheek pressed against the brown carpet – eyes shut – I feel wonderfully heavy. The urge to stay right there on the parliamentary floor is compelling. It feels good and safe.
“I suggest you roll over on to your stomach now,” says Tsenoli. After a few moments, he tells me to get up on my knees and open my eyes. My smile covers half my face. Even as matters in Parliament reached boiling point during the past week, softly spoken Tsenoli sacrificed a lunch break to show City Press what his beloved TRE – Trauma Releasing Exercises – is about.
After two years of training, Tsenoli is a qualified level 2 TRE practitioner. He is passionate about the technique and does the exercises up to three times a week – often also on his office floor.
He hopes to include them in Parliament’s broader wellness programme. He also says it’s just the thing for the rest of us in South Africa.
“TRE deals with accumulated trauma and tension, lowering it over the long term. The impact can be fantastic and healing,” he says.
Back when he was the deputy rural development minister, Tsenoli taught the exercises to his department’s leadership, with outstanding results, he says.
TRE is just a part of Tsenoli’s broader vision for a healthier Parliament. “It is the Speaker and deputy Speaker’s jobs to look after Members of Parliament and staff, to improve their health for optimal productivity,” he says.
Since Tsenoli became the deputy Speaker in May, Parliament’s five restaurants have been fitted with organic vegetable juice presses and their chefs briefed by healthfood experts Rawlicious. Professor Tim Noakes has also addressed staff on his controversial Banting diet.
In Tsenoli’s own office, tea and coffee machines made way for a juicer. Kilos of beetroot, carrots, apples, ginger and mint are juiced and sipped daily.
When we arrive, Tsenoli’s head of office, Paul Davids, hands us glasses of beetroot juice. He’s lost 4kg since giving up steak masala gatsbys for lunch.
HAVE THE FLOOR
Lechesa Tsenoli sacrificed a lunch break to show City Press what his beloved TRE is about