Transforming Young Minds, Hearts and Livelihoods

At its start, the program began by training 50 young Africans from the informal settlements of Nairobi to be yoga instructors. Since then, the project has grown exponentially. AYP has certified 200 teachers and they, in turn, teach yoga to over 6,000 people a week. Over 80% of their teachers are employed by the wellness industry, and have moved from below the poverty line to what Kenya considers middle income earners.... Thanks to Fair Observer for sharing this. Read the whole story here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Freedom In Prison

"Before I came to this group, I did not know anything about the group. I did not know anything about yoga. I had stigma, I coulf not say anything, I couldn't stand before people, but when yoga came, I can talk, I can be happy, I can tell anybody what I want. Because I am free." - Nji

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa Yoga Project On Mt Kilimanjaro

This morning we Africa Yoga Project, people,  Mount Kilimanjaro, guides, love, work family, etc all in one video! Get inspired!

Video by Shelley Lowther.

Our Favourite Moments.

 To All who lives have touched us and supported us by friendship, caring, loving , travelling or donating to us we wanted to share some of our trip with you.  Please read about our adventure.
We have all 7 recently made it home, safe and sound, from our Seva Safari in Kenya. I wanted to take the time to thank each and everyone who made this trip possible. Thanks to all of you, we raised an astounding $25,000 for Africa Yoga Project and Flying Kites Orphanage. We saw first hand where all the money was going and who it would be helping, and I feel so grateful to everyone who donated to this amazing cause.
 
When we first arrived at the school, we were greeted with the warmest welcome I have ever received. The kids all sang us a beautiful song, with the most amazing smiles on their faces. I was so moved seeing all their eager faces sending us so much unconditional love before they even met us. Afterwards, everyone of us had a bunch of kids grab our hands, and they gave us individual tours of the school. They all took such pride in their learning environment, and showed us even the small things with big delight. I admired deeply their appreciation for everything that they had right in front of them.
My favourite part of the trip was that we were able to live at the orphanage along side 27 amazing kids. They were all so talented and unique, and it was incredible being able to spend 6 days with them. We were showered with smiles, and hugs, and we were right away accepted into their family. They called us all Aunty and Uncle, even the young kids, and were seen as no different from anyone else in their family. They would gladly come to us if they need help, or sit on our laps, or even just have a conversation. The swawili word ‘Umoja’, meaning unity, really embodied the spirit that I found in Kenya. There were always people by your side, willing to share of themselves generously, in order to be a support to you. Paige Elenson, the founder of Africa Yoga Project, said to us on the first day that “It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a village of children to raise an adult”. After spending a week with these beautiful children, I truly felt that they have raised me to be a better person. I have learned so much from their beautiful spirits, and I will forever keep them close to my heart.
 
Life at the orphanage was very busy, and it was never a dull moment. The kids got home from school at 4:30, and would all pile out of the small range rover they shared, and would rush out of the uniforms to come play with us. We all had dinner in the same room every day, proceeded by a meeting. The meetings consisted of people sharing how their days were, what they learned, and things that they were grateful for.
I loved these meetings because I found it so amazing that these kids took time everyday to not only reflect on things that happened in their lives, but to also be a part of what happened in the lives of everyone else. After the meetings, the kids all did homework, and we were able to help them. All of them were incredibly smart, and the marks in every grade were always within the top 2 in the whole area. I was blown away at how hard the kids worked, and how much they valued their studies. They not only never complained about homework in the way I am used to hearing, but I often found them studying in their free time as well. It really made me think about how in Canada education is too often taken for granted. In our spare time, we did some really fun things with the kids as well. One day, we did a superhero yoga party, where all the kids got to decorate a cape and be a superhero for the night. We also had an amazing dance party taught by Billy, who used to do Afro-Fusion dance. It was so much fun, and everyone had a blast. 

We were a fairly large group as we had 4 other families with us, as well as 5 Kenyan yoga teachers, but the group dynamic was amazing. Everyone connected really well together, and we worked as an excellent team. As a group (with some help of other volunteers and a few other children), we were able to paint all the classrooms of the school with new colours, as well as a fresh coat on the outside. We even had time to sand and varnish the desks and chairs. Everyone worked really hard, and the school looked amazing when we were done. An other great thing we accomplished was when we helped with chores around the house. The entire orphanage was swept and mopped, and books and clothes were organized, but the matron’s favourite part was that we did a TON of laundry. They spend all day scrubbing clothes by hand, and rarely have enough time to rest. They were so grateful that they were all able to relax and finally talk amongst each other. It felt amazing that we were able to give them that opportunity.


Charlie felt eager to meet all the kids after they sang the song. The first person he met after the song was named Peter, and they quickly became best friends. His favourite memories were all of the games that we played when we did yoga. He was also very happy that they let us stay at their house, felt a lot of love when they sang “we love you” to us. 

Jamie thought that it was amazing how the people live their lives so different from us. She noticed how they eat different and speak a different language. She loved how the kids were talking to us, and teaching us things that we do differently. She thought it was especially fun to play with them because their games were awesome. The best part for her was just being able to laugh with all the kids. 

Emmitt’s favorite part of the trip was going to the orphanage and staying with all of the kids. He had a best friend Zipporah, who he will never forget. She is 5 years old, and would follow him around to play from the moment he arrived. Overall, he really enjoyed playing and connecting with all of the kids, and he hopes to go back one day to see our rafiki’s (friends).


Noah thought that there was many amazing moments to the trip, for example the positive energy from everyone we met. For him, one of the most amazing parts of the trip was when the Africa Yoga Project Family and the Flying Kites School got into a circle and we all sang songs. We would teach them a song like, “Bluebird through my window”, and in return they taught us songs in swahili. One of the songs, “Camarais” included singing and dancing, and Jamie loved it so much that she learnt all the lyrics, and sang all night.


My Mom and Dad had two favourite parts.  The moments and experience we had living with the Kenyan people was amazing.  They loved how the Kenyans were so giving of themselves through their actions. We saw so many waves , heard “how are you? or Jambo!” , and received many many huge smiles.  People young and old came to the road to see us as we walked through the town. They have an abundance of happiness.  The other thing my parents really loved to see was how my siblings and I interacted with the people.  They were proud at how we actively participated in all aspects of the trip.  The painting of the school, the interaction with the kids, the interaction with the other families (adults and kids), the games, the songs, and all the other wonderful experiences we all shared together. Every night we would have our Heisz family meeting waiting for the generator to shut off, and would discuss the many things we did that day.  It was a really good bonding and we grew closer together as a family on the journey.

For all of us, this trip was unforgettable, and so valuable to us as a family. I have so much gratitude for the people who have made this experience a possibility for us, because without your support these amazing memories would not exist. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
 
SAMARA

Paige Elenson Explains Africa Yoga Project And Why

"When they graduate from that 3 year program, they go into a 2 year enterprise development program where they learn how to create business and enterprises that are based off or inspired by the wellness industry." - Paige Elenson Here Paige, co-founder of Africa Yoga Project and an Ashola Fellow explains the organisation emopowers, educates, elevates and employs the youth! Here is the whole interview! 

Written by Billy Sadia — June 18, 2014

This Is Yoga

I think I did visit the Africa Yoga Project website more than 1000 times. I was keyed up of the scholarship I had been awarded. A 200hour yoga teacher training opportunity! I am asocial media guru. You can guess my next moves. I looked for, liked, and followed AYP on all the social media platforms I’m aware of. It does give me satisfaction when I become part of causes or projects I see are changing lives. Take a tour of the AYP site and you’ll gain an insight into how yoga is changing lives in Africa.

One year ago, while serving a humanitarian mission on Rusinga Island, Denise Magee-Gray had not left her yoga cards behind. I did know little about yoga. An opportunity to start the journey into my own spiritual alignment was brewing somewhere around the corner.  Denise and I called the children we were working with into a circle-the usual way to start an outdoor play with kids in Kenya.  Ten minutes later we were all airplanes; I mean the airplane poses. Together with the children I had attended my first yoga activity.

Today I am a certified Yoga teacher instructor. I will rewind the timeline back to the moment I was picked up by the taxi at the bus stop in Nairobi. I did not know where the Shine Centre was located. The driver knew. But I kept on checking my google map. I was that eager to get there.

With an African theme and an amazing lighting, the Shine center was beaming with energy and enthusiasm as I rolled down my yoga mat. The instructor was so refined in his words. Cue after cue I felt the words resonate within my inner self, evoking the untamed energy that I had brought along with me. Well, I was already in fifth gear. “How comes?” I asked myself, “It’s not even day one of the 200hour training!”

 

Now this is amusing! I had so much zeal to learn Sanskrit language- the original language of ancient yogis. On the walls of Shine center hang canvases of Power yoga teaching methodologies. I did read these words, ‘Baron Baptiste’. And for a few hours I thought they were Sanskrit until when I heard the facilitator talk about a Baron Baptiste who had created the power yoga sequence. I cracked up, making sure no one noticed lest they asked me why!

Never before in my life had I been exposed to human diversity as it did happen to me at AYP. Twenty three plus countries, and all the continents represented in one place. Can you feel the power of yoga?  I was astounded just the way you are now! I used to dream to be in place like that, with people like that. And now I was. I felt the world as one. There was no more colour, race, or culture barrier. We all shared our hearts out. We all had the same challenges and success stories in life. Right now we were on the same path of harmonizing our bodies and minds. A path of true seekers.

I fell in love with my matt, just like everyone else did with theirs. I vowed to flood it with sweat every hour of the 200 hours of the training. A real yogi has to connect with their matt. Power yoga insists on grounding oneself for core development. It’s only through this that a true-north alignment is achieved. This makes one concentrate on refining their personalities, gaining mastery of their body, and developing an energetic awareness of oneself.

 

Did I tell you the theme of the teacher training? No, not yet! A journey through the Great Rift Valley with scenic views is normally called a Safari.  Prefix it with the Sanskrit word ‘Seva’ and you come up with Seva Safari-a selfless service journey. Amidst the tranquil and serene nature of Lake Naivasha, we indulged ourselves into sensory transcendence. For the first time in my life I managed to draw my awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Previously during the training I kept on having emotional breakdowns. I had just buried my beloved grandmother days before travelling to the training. Grief was still taking toll on me. Fortunately, now I was presented with an opportunity to take a step and look at myself. I realised this was the opportunity to leap forward and move on.  I started to cultivate detachment from my senses and directed my attention internally. My breath was the most powerful tool I had. It was the bridge between my mind, body and emotions.

I felt connected, not only with myself, but also with my fellow yogis. We all opened up to one another and shared our hearts out. We created love. Nothing beats the pleasure of knowing that you are loved from Honk Kong to South Africa to New York.

I am back at home in the community. While in Nairobi we did visit many outreach programmes in the slums ran by Africa Yoga Project. Yoga is changing lives of the youth in the slums. One on one interaction with these youths was a true eye opener to possibilities, opportunities and benefits yoga has for young people. I want to fully share my experience at AYP with my community. I know yoga is going to change lives here too.  

I honour the place in you in which the entire universe dwells, I honour the place in you which is of love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. Let the light that shines in me shine in you.-Namaste!

Shanti! Shanti!

Abass Swaleh

 

 

Wheel Power

This blog post is about the wheel pose, one of the yoga poses that has given me grief for a long time. If you follow the steps- place your knees hip distance wide on the mat, plant your hands beside your ears and UP YOU GO, it should be as easy as pie, right? Wrong! Well at least it has been wrong for me.

Until one Saturday class this February when I sat next to one of my favoritest teachers and he said, ‘No Brendah, you can do this. UP YOU GO!’ and what do you know, UP I went. For the longest time, my upper body just felt so heavy. It was not cooperating, it was hard and I would look around in envy from the corner of my bridge-position eye (because I mean there is no such thing as watch pose, and you would rather try to do something than nothing) and marvel and ooh and aah and OMG as everyone else went up. And then there are those ones who can do a wheel from their hands going down…do not get me started!

I decided that this was going to be my year of wheels. And it is now as I have grown with excitement and anticipation going up. I am so proud of myself that I immediately text my mother and best friend to update them on the progress I keep making every Saturday. The texts go something like ‘3 wheels today 5 breaths eachJJ ‘

Inspired by a conversation with my friend after the class who asked whether yoga is a question of the mind over the body, I think so because in doing the wheel I feel like my body and mind are actually in sync and all agree that wheel is good for both of them and they cooperate. UP now has a new meaning for me, because it represents breakthrough, faith and moving forward. It is a ‘yes I can and yes I will and yes I am’ moment, an UP I GO revelation.

Some people would find wheels super easy to do but I guess for me I have come to respect my body and look at its amazing prowess in awe. That’s one of the great graces of yoga- the understanding of who you are, and if you take time to listen and notice, you will be surprised at what your body is trying to tell you. Challenge yourself to go up, and see what that opens up for you…it is your practice after all!

 

And as we do that, here are a few interesting facts about the wheel pose:

- It is also known as the ‘upward bow’ pose or Urdhva Dhanurasana

- It increases the elasticity and flexibility of the spine by creating space in the spine to keep young and healthy and stand tall

- Increases core strength and therefore toned muscles

- Opens the chest and strengthens the lungs

- Loosens tight hips

- It is a heart opening backbend that allows you to shine your heart and light to the world

- You get energized physically and mentally just from practicing the wheel!

How is that for coolness and motivation to wheel it?

 

Bree Orata 

Written by Billy Sadia — May 07, 2014

72 Yoga Teachers In Training

Our 72 yoga teachers in training collect at the Shine Centre for the famous Saturday morning community yoga class. Senior Baptiste Instructors Kiersten Mooney and Tami Schneider lead the class into a vigorous Power Vinyasa Flow. Setting the pace for the week, Kiersten elaborates on the similarities between us as humans, unifying the class through their bodies and hearts.

 

As more outreach projects are reached, the group travels to Naivasha for yoga study, practice and discussion.

As one of the most ethnically diverse teach trainings in the world right now, there are a lot of topics to be covered. Funny enough, the simplicity of the group is broken down immediately into large belly laughs, hugs and sharing of personal experiences. Yoga does not discriminate between race, religion, tribe or language, it only differentiates between bodies, and this training has many to be strengthened and stretched! 

The group extends their hearts, bodies and minds into outreach classes, travelling in small groups to various parts of the city to see the over 3,000 yogis benefiting from AYP’s initiatives. Many of the classes are for children, a safe place for them to play and connect. Some of the AYP teachers in training are reaching beyond their comfort zone and expanding their minds with new experiences as they travel for their first time into the various slums of Nairobi.

Escaping the city to Naivasha, the training becomes much more focussed in asana and yoga philosophy. Personal journalling is encouraged, sharing with the group is very important and attendance is mandatory. The yogis break down the 8 limbs of yoga and the Baptiste Journey into Power sequence with a variety of supported teachings. Throughout the day the group has free time which includes break-work and more personal study. Morning walk meditations and afternoon swims relax the yogis from the intense training. Some of the intensity of the training comes from the daily yoga practice, the rest comes from the deep topics reached in evening group discussions. 

Elaborating on the deepest fears of the past, the group alleviates long-held belief systems that no longer serve their present moment. Through stories of abuse and wrong-doing, they explore ways to peacefully release their troubles, identifying outcomes that push them into a space of leadership and empowerment.

 

“If you’re fighting with your brothers, holding resentment towards your sisters, and hating your neighbour in your mind then you will not see peace in this world.” Kiersten Mooney teaches. 

The yoga glow in the group is contagious as the teachers in training sleep heavy, eat well, and explore their new leadership as the week progresses. Tears and laughs abound on a daily basis as they sweat and memorize, breathe and exercise their minds, bodies and souls meeting at the halfway point of the 200 hour experience.  

 

Chelsea Vickers

Written by Billy Sadia — May 05, 2014