Community is a word that was relevant years between the 70’s and back where social support in families helped people overcome hard times and situations. A place to offload, share, mingle and have absolute fun in the midst of all this. Communities were safety nets that held people in checks as they had a place to fall back to when things got tough. Today however people are not as close and available as they were back then and the entries of social media and networks that eat into people’s personal space and time have not made things any easier. If things go unchecked we are heading towards a psychological anarchy, some kind of jungle society where everyone is territorial and operates from the animalistic instincts as opposed to sense or logic. This is where the Saturday community class becomes relevant.
The Saturday community class at the Shine center is designed to bring the people together and restores back the honor and glamour of a community and especially in this current generation that is faced with numerous challenges and struggles. This is a platform to unwind after a week long stretch of hard work at a desk, counter, road, pitch or wherever and whatever you have spend your week doing. If you are wondering what kind of people I am talking about the answer is; everybody comes in; from the lowest to the highest class individuals (whatever that means), come to this class.
The Shine center which is based solely on the transformative powers of yoga allows anybody and everybody in, to its full capacity of between 250- 300 persons every Saturday. This class has new entrants counting up to a minimum of 20-30 individuals every other time. The benefits of this class are so individualized and therefore varied. You are invited to come and witness your personal transformation into the enlightened self by simply accepting to be part of the community. The numbers make the essence and the coming together brings fulfillment and a sense of belonging. It is refreshing to feel easy, safe and comfortable in a group of strangers coming from all walks of life, some of them with unbelievable background stories, some from the rich and well educated and some with no educational background. Some are experienced practitioners of yoga and some who are totally new to this experience of mind and body training. You flash your eyes around to see if anybody is looking at you, maybe sensing your insecurities but nobody is looking. Somehow everybody seems to be self absorbed, preparing to sink into this individual world among a forest of people in sweatshirts, shorts and body tights; strange right! It is amazing how so many people would come together to share a commonality in practice and way of life. It inspires unity, peace, love, harmony and connection among the people.
Bonds are created and friendships are forged through sharing and partnering in these yoga sessions. There is absolute fun if you come with open minded and open hearted because open is the key word; open the doors to your potential, open possibilities in your life, open space for someone else, open mind for new challenges and therefore growth. Come and meet the qualified and certified Baptiste African yoga teachers who will take you through Vinyasa power yoga full of life, vibrant and energetic variations. A sure way to make you sweat and enjoy a serious workout that will leave you feeling invigorated, cleansed and good as new. Are you curious yet? You should be…Welcome on board flight AYP shine center Saturday class. Take off time 10am East African time landing after 2 hours of juicy fun guaranteed. Enjoy your flight.
The definition as we know it, is the creativity and professionalism involved in helping another person in a given circumstance. The focus of this sharing is to highlight what assisting means to me as a yogi.
The art of assistance to me is like playing a parent, mentor, role model, tour guide etc. My ultimate goal during assistance is to leave the person I am assisting in their greatest by simply encouraging them and empowering them to reach their utmost in their individual levels. As a parent, I wish to teach them independence which means leaving room for them to go the extra yard with as little as a smile and or a pat on the shoulder to light up their path. As a mentor, I wish to inspire and leave them in their higher self esteem and confidence. As a role model, I wish to be a reminder of the importance of linking breath to movement and that we can always rely and anchor on our breath especially in the most challenging physical poses which also translates to challenging situations in our life. As a tour guide, I wish to guide them into an adventurous self, lead them to explore whatever is possible for them in every pose and situation, lead them to new discoveries and still leave room for astonishment.
The art of assisting is a humbling experience for me. It is a constant reminder for me to push aside my ego and be of service. Lay a low profile enough to feel myself in others that I assist. It teaches me humility, love and compassion. Without these ingredients assisting can be quite an uphill task I tell you. This is a two way traffic relationship between the assistant and the assisted. They love and respect you enough to allow you to touch and guide them just as much you love and respect them enough to want to help them into their greatest.
The basics of a good assist as shared by mentors Billy and Maggie of AYP are that you always start from the foundation. The assisting itself is a foundation in its own sense. Let me elaborate; the foundation is being in touch with yourself, sorting your own issues before you assist. Being authentic, staying in the present moment, one assist to another, they are all unique, beautiful and wonderfully made persons. The foundation means relaxing with what is. The foundation is keen observation and identifying facts minus the story of how a certain pose is supposed to be or look like. If we lay well the foundation/floor tiles/slabs we can walk on them the entire time. Start assisting from your authentic self and you will enjoy uplifting others to their greatest. Use the basics of a good assist and make a direct application in life, and you will forever feel fulfilled in your deeds.
This is how close the art of assisting is to my heart; raise your right hand up if this resonates with you.
Everybody has a story, I had one too and it had for a long time been eating me up, until I was lead to know that I am not suffering because of the facts in my experience but because of the story that I make out of it, does it make sense?
I had one little incident that happened to me when I was a young boy of about 11 years old. This experience over the years remained to be a painful reminder every time I took a walk down memory lane. As it is, I had lived with this pain through the lenses of an 11 year old boy for ages. What I mean, is the interpretation, definition, meaning, description and or explanation of what happened was of an eleven year old boy. Things have changed but I stuck to my story for a long time and in fact narrated it exactly the way I have always done for 11 years. I said it one too many times I came to believe it is true…. And it was; only it was the truth according to me. I know what happened and I wasn’t happy that it happened.
“Does it still hurt? Yes it does”….. So I read it again to my friend and I underlined only the facts this time, which were like 3 of them. So when I read the story again, it didn’t hurt anymore; why? Because I am a grown up now and it’s been years, wouldn’t you say? Hold on a second here…. do you mean to say as a grown up I am looking at it from a different angle and that’s why the pain is not there? Yes ….a pregnant yes to be exact!
The truth is, the only reason I am not feeling pain is because after separating the facts from my story I am able to remain rational. I can live with the facts and actually find them acceptable. The mixing of the facts and story is what clogs the vision, compounds the whole situation and literally complicates and compromises the healing process. It is more like driving a car in the rain without wipers. Groping in the darkness without a light! Walking with your eyes shut or blindfolded! The thing is, we have always created stories around certain events in our lives. It is the description, definition, interpretations and meaning that we give to the events that makes the suffering and hardly the facts! There is a need for us to learn to separate the facts from our stories and remain only with what happened. The stories are just that, Stories. They are not necessarily the truth. The story is not important, and therefore not worth relating to. The focus should remain on the facts and nothing else. This leaves room for possibilities, empowerment, creation, declaration and conversation. In yoga I believed I couldn’t take a wheel pose from a flip dog! I listened to teachers Paige and Kiersten. I now “flip dog” and take “wheels” back and forth with ease. In this case I separated the lies, the stories I told myself and remained only with what is! From this point on I was able to work the rest of the equation and I was good with it…such is my growth in yoga.
“Complaint” is a good word to describe those circumstances in our lives that we wish were different, whether our discontentment is of small stuff or more important stuff. There is need to become aware of our complaints to help us recognize how they add stress and dissatisfaction to our lives and to begin to see what it would feel like to let go of them. Yoga gives us the tools to discover how it would feel like to let go.
One of the major sources of stress and dissatisfaction in our lives has been our never ending desire to control what happens to us …. To get what we want and get rid of what we don't want. This is referred to as the state of “want/don’t-want.”
We may complain differently by sex, but we certainly do it a lot. The Bible even talks of the incessant grumbling by the Jews who were led out of Egypt. They complained about drinks, the leadership, and the desert. They complained that the miracle substance that sustained them, manna, didn’t taste like real meat. They’re taken out as slaves from Egypt and they’re making noise about everything.
During our 200 hour teacher training we were all told to write down a list of our complaints about anything and everything to do with or without the training and immediately after were advised to make a declaration to give up the complaints… Complaining without action makes us feel victimized, powerless and helpless…that was the key point of the facilitators in the training. When we get a complaint successfully resolved, we feel we have accomplished something, empowered and, hopefully, made a positive alteration.
Somebody once told me, “Don’t just sit there and admire the problem. Complain in a manner to move toward a solution.” To complain effectively, we need to override the initial negative attitude most of us have — that inner voice that says, “Why bother? There’s no point.” “I will never be able to reach that level of flexibility anyway,”…..It hurts too much to stay in this pose; I can’t do it….And so on and forth.
We need to be aware of what we want to achieve by complaining. Is it to resolve a problem? Is it to let someone know about the problem so it won’t happen again? Or is it to excuse one’s own failings?
Sometimes we use complaints to push others to carry some of our negative feelings. You bring up an argument that has no room for safe exit (solution) and so unload your frustrations onto others. Say you are practicing next to a guy who is always lamenting on how the teacher is making you hold poses longer. This negativity eventually rubs on to you or to someone else next to you if you are the complainant. Individuals who grumble about everything evade accountability for their lives, and tend to have many excuses why they are not yet at their pick point/objective. Unknowingly, they're channeling energy and concentration on unwanted things and almost certainly fail to become conscious of how much complaining they are doing. Paige the co- founder and director of AYP once told us “It’s a depressing sight to look on when a person releases their power and use complaining as a form of control at the exact same time.”
When you are complaining, mostly in your thoughts and therefore your vision are blurred and blocks you from seeing other windows, avenues, possibilities open to you. You cannot move beyond what you see. The brighter you see the faster you move, if that is your intention.
The complaining attitude could have started as a child and carried up into adulthood. Having come from an abused background, lack of attention at home or school, complainers haven’t learnt to love themselves. This makes it a job of everyone else to listen and to give the support the complainer never had. That won’t work. Friends will disappear one by one and complainers will lose their audiences. If you happen not to like something make a change of it. If you can’t change it, then change your attitude. Don’t complain too much.
There is still a chance for people who complain ceaselessly. All you need is some action, and proper attitude. A complainer’s collective outlook of themselves and the world around them can be shifted when they have willingness to view situations in a different angle. If they learnt not to fight when faced with troubling situations like difficulty in a pose; Instead of trying hard yoga teaches us to try easy. “You neither have to run nor stand to fight but you can simply stay and let it happen” as Baron Baptiste puts it. “There is a power in the universe bigger than all of us and all you need to access it is relax, breathe and surrender” which is likened to dropping your complaints. Dropping what you must and relaxing with what is. It is in reality a lot more beneficial to refrain from complaining both emotionally and physically. If you are willing to become instrumental in bringing positive difference for yourself and others then it can be okay. Otherwise you are in danger of remaining entangled in an unending cycle of complaining and are not able to live to your full potential.
Root down and raise up mountain pose.
Lift your hands above your head. Point your fingers towards the heavens, palms facing each other with an internal extension. Spread your fingers like the tentacles they are and shine. Gaze up in between your hands and smile to the universe as you invite in all that is good and also in anticipation of the good flow of positive energy and connection. Stretch an inch higher elongating your spine graciously and in deep gratitude. Standing in your true north alignment; tadasana.
It is that moment in time to fully make empty my cup. A full cup has no room, mine is empty and hungry for a refill. The raising up and growing tall is a reminder for me to reach up to a higher energy source in the universe that we so take for granted and yet it is without pay. There is for sure a greater force within our universe, and the evidence is all around us. Only problem is, it is so commonplace we take it for granted. We all have this opportunity to use this creative Force to accomplish our goals, but only few use it. This force has been handed to us on a silver platter, completely free. But the imperfect nature of human beings which is inherent in me and in all of us, we value material things like homes, cars, tv sets, boats, and place little value in things unpaid for e.g. body, mind, families, friends, good health, love and natural laws of the universe. The truth is that the material things that we value so much are actually very cheap and can be replaced. But when free things get lost – they are gone forever. “Best things in life are free.” They are available for the taking. They are responsible for bringing happiness in our life. I am taking advantage of these natural laws to guide me into happiness and success as I reach up to grab and use that which is naturally given to me for free. Yoga is my train; the asanas do the shaping of the rail path.
Ground down like earth, both feet together facing 12 o’clock. Ground down the four corners of your feet; spread your toes out on the mat. Inner angles back, outer angles down, outer shins in and now from the skin to the muscle to the bone hug in.
Keep your pelvis neutral, lift the front of your pelvis as the tail bone descends. Build an inner fire, pull the pit of your belly in and up as you draw the front of the ribs together and expand the mid back. Expand from the inside out.
Soften like air, thoracic spine draws in, upper arm bones back, shoulder blades move towards the spine and press into the body. Create space for something new. Draw in to create a full expression out. Taking it all in as it was mine and yours right from the start.
Find your position in child’s pose. Sit on your heels, big toes touching, open your knees wide as you accommodate your body in between and let yourself melt down to your mat. Extend your hands in front, straighten your elbows as you seek to stretch your back and therefore your limits and expand your possibilities; spread your fingers on your mat like the roots of an Oak tree sucking all the useful nutrients the ground can offer, and spitting out all that is not, your forehead riding in between and gently pressing on the mat making this an absolute phenomenon connection to the mother earth. This is child’s pose!
Child’s pose has over time come to be my happy pose. Initially when I begun yoga I was interested in the wholesome picture and still are but as time goes by I have come to identify more with certain poses that relate directly or indirectly to life and give me the reflection of life from the inside. I regard it as being my control base, my stability and my uniqueness. The name is captivating, because it is literally a call back to the beginning. It symbolizes a fresh start and a new chance to begin again.
In this pose, I am young again,
In this pose, no dwelling on issues,
In this pose, not a thing to think about,
In this pose, not a care in the world,
In this pose my innocence is certain,
I am pure of thoughts because I drop my entire thought package here for postage, with a return address …… to find me later after a yoga session!
I am allowed to be playful and I don’t have to be sorry for not knowing and not being strong enough….. I am young for crying out loud!
In this pose, I am only present to what’s happening now. I am connecting with my inner self, the true me, the vulnerable me. I don’t have nothing to prove, I can cry here and I can also laugh. I am a re-visiting a child in me, in child’s pose and as a child I am uncompromised, I am authentic.
Child’s pose draws me in to myself; Apart from meditation poses, this is another point where I do self consultation and draw in positive energy, channeling it all over my body and for disposition of negative energy and toxins, this is the rinsing stage. Dropping what I must and repackaging afresh bringing in more YES and I am ready now!!………. I love this pose, I love yoga!!
There is nobility in silence. We feel bad and confused when we talk to someone and they don’t respond back to us. Silence is sometimes also commonly regarded as either utter rudeness or consent. It could also mean lack of a better answer or not knowing what to say, which you will agree with me we hardly take as an answer in good faith. The exchange of both verbal and visual signs is the communication that we are used to. …..but have you taken time to explore the nobility in silent communication? I have, in noble silence.
There is communication in silence, not the sign language and can hardly be termed as visual because I believe even the blind would share the same experience as everyone else. It is strong in every dimension; it just depends on your personal interpretation. This is the very basic and root essence of connection. Technology, talk of social media, life patterns, sheer self centeredness and other factors in this current generation have driven us apart and we are slowly but surely losing grounds of essential communication therefore affecting the deep connection, borne of understanding, based on feeling, on appreciation and acknowledgment, generous listening, patience and tolerance between ourselves and our loved ones. You feel this reality of the drift and distance in our life during noble silence. It certainly brings me back to my core. Can you be rude to yourself, can you ignore you, and can you be snobbish to yourself? I don’t think I can, but maybe you do huh! Practically as my partner in this exercise, you are only filling in my part/position or space so I can better look at myself, so that I can use you as a mirror if you allow me, because it’s me that I am looking at and not you, my partner across. In this silence I look at you deep enough till I realize I have come face to face with the horror of my life, my inner fears, insecurities, self doubt, and all other masks the list is endless but none of them is about you but about me.
Such are the lessons that I have learnt through my experience in yoga. The true me yearns for connection, a connection which starts from deep inside me and extends out. I have realized that I have for so long kept myself in a cocoon from which I needed release; freedom from bondage of my own masks and secrets. The kind that lets me and everyone else breathe fresh and unaccustomed air of choice and liberation. I have also come to realize that apart from the public jails/prisons, there are personal prisons from which I have craved to crawl out of in one way or another….and that over time I have developed ways and means (masks) to escape reality at the slightest chance I get and to wonder off to a secluded world of fantasy, a world that tells a different definition of courage, authenticity, honesty and truth. In most cases this chances only result in short term releases from the self imprisonment and has absolutely no guarantee of success whatsoever.
Just like the way yoga teaches me to align my body to its true north during practice, is the same way I need to align my thoughts and actions to my true self, before I am capable of extending a hand out if I am to be of service to anyone else let alone myself. This only comes through confrontation of my emotions, deal with my issues and all other challenges as they present themselves in my life.
It’s during my 200hour teacher training at the AYP shine center. The key facilitators of the program are my Director Paige Elenson, kiersten mooney and Lisa Taylor. On this one afternoon we come in after our lunch break to find an arrangement of seats that ran five rows. We were a big number and therefore you are toiling with a figure of above a hundred and fifty participants in the program. “Everybody please come on in with only your bottle of water and nothing else.” Came the resounding instruction from one of the assistants. Hurriedly and in a harsh silence we came in one after the other. That was an automatic response to the invitation that flew from the interior of the room all the way to where we were at the doorway. Noble silence!
After we are all seated, the facilitators made sure to give us time enough to speculate on what was coming, kept us guessing on what they were up to this afternoon. Nobody knew what to expect, if they did, they never whispered a word. But whatever it was, they took it serious and we saw it in the eyes of the assistants and it left no doubt in our minds that it was going to be one harsh reprimand or caution….just something stern.
All three main teachers march in like soldiers in a file. “Oooh ooh this is it, we are done.., we have blown it. They are going to announce that they are no longer going to facilitate because…….. I don’t know men. Am I being negative? I don’t think so, because all around me I am seeing curled up faces, something unexplainable but not good…grim, confusion maybe and worry. This silence is having a big of impact on people and I do not understand why they are doing this to us. This is not fair”, am thinking. It is not fair to keep people guessing for this long. May I remind you that it had only been less than five minutes since we began coming in and getting seated. Therefore quick arithmetic will place the time we have spent in silence to be under 1 minute, before the teachers strode in. So there they are at long last, but now I am even more afraid of what they are going to say and a side of me is hesitant to wish to hear them speak out!
Well, they didn’t they merely stood there with this soft motherly look that told you, you have no idea what’s coming. Jeez…I once liked silence and thought it was good at some point, but this is killing me…. say something people please! Somebody do something move a seat….just some little noise to break the silence…guys!!
“This afternoon” I squeezed my seat so hard my knuckles went blue; oh I forgot I am dark skinned, “we are going to practice noble silence”. What, I thought I didn’t hear right! But she said it again and ‘am like oh God another silence again! But at least she didn’t say we have done wrong or something! The back row was instructed to line up in the front of the room where two lines apparently had been drawn and closely together. The instruction was to stand still and face the people seated down. The seated population we were advised to look at them pointedly with an intention to see who they real are and for them to keep a soft face and let us in, in total and absolute silence. At face value this sounded kind of funny, but teachers explained that this was no game and that we were going to spend the whole afternoon seated there doing this exercise. So we looked at each other and they guided us in a sort of meditation. Urging the guys at the front to open up for them to be seen and that it were safe, and there is no point to prove. They just need to be authentic to themselves and to the rest of the class. They talked about the masks that we put on as individuals.
"AYP teacher Irene Is alway out here"
These masks are things like being shy. Shyness in other words is fear of contradiction, you are afraid of being wrong and you don’t have to be. When you know for sure that you are wrong, that’s when you are able to learn the right way otherwise you remain boxed in your ignorance forever. We are judgmental in nature, and that’s why we are afraid to be judged. When I am self judging and or judging others I am like fleas in a closed container. They can only jump as high as the container lid. We judge and eventually get trained by our judgment. Our judgment holds us back the height of the container lid. The masks that we put on in different circumstances in our lives are pulling us back from reaching our potential. They are pulling you back right now from experiencing this moment of self revelation. After a while the first row was told to stand up and face the fifth row already standing. We are meant to stand very close to each other; you could smell each other’s breath. You would be unlucky if you came face to face with someone with a bad odor! I was in the first row, and there I was standing face to face with someone special in her own sense. Different regions of origin, background, and color you name it. Somehow all these things didn’t matter. As I stood and listened to what the teachers were saying as they interchanged their talks from one to the other you could hardly tell who said what. But it all sunk with such deep weight and you could feel it all around. And it wasn’t long before people started crying in the room. It started with soft sobs, and then grew bigger and into outburst. Nobody was meant to help them as some of them could no longer stand the intensity of the exercise and crumbled to the floor. They were merely helped up and back to standing by the assistants. “Face your fears now and be truthful to yourself. Open up and let them in. Let them see you as you see them. Ask yourself if you are real, if you are who you think you are, do you really know who you are? Are authentic or is it a mask you are wearing. What kind of mask is your mask? Can you see them, you cannot see them if you are not authentic and truthful. Your hearts have to connect to be one, so you can feel what they are feeling. Create space and be a stand for someone else. If you need to shade a tear to show them how true this is, so be it, you need to open up for them to come in and feel comfortable enough to lean on you, to trust you, to know that you are there for them now not later, not tomorrow, now!
I want to be a stand for someone else in my life; I want to be able to listen in silence. I want to learn to listen generously. I want to exercise the nobility in silence, the acknowledgement of oneself in others, and others in myself. I want to be a bigger “me”, I want to create a different definition of the me to comprise the whole in man. I want to use to uniting power of yoga, the union of oneself, the silent meditational practice, the clarity in silence. The Noble
I feel so beyond honored to have been among the attendees of the level two of teacher training in Nairobi at this point in time. This is a vote of thanks and acknowledgment going to Paige the director and founder of AYP for creating the biggest space ever in her heart and to Pauline the chair of the board for agreeing to take part in this momentous task of empowering people from all over.My deepest gratitude goes to God as He shines His armor on all of us here. For putting so many beautiful people in my life right now to help me in seeing the good things in my life. Thank you guys so much for creating space for me as I hold and create space within me for you and your representation of the Godliness in you. This is an opportunity to re-discover me that lies unrevealed to me. I thank the universe for conspiring to help me in my personal growth that I am so looking forward to having in the course of this continuous training.
"Photo from Level 2 teacher training in Nairobi Kenya."
Asante is swahili for thank you!
It’s a lot easier to stay in the blame game than it is to accept and take ownership of the role that I play in conflicts in my life. Acceptance of my role in conflicts within and without is the very first step towards solving whatever problem there might be as it was clearly highlighted in a mentorship workshop of team Africa by Catherine the director of yoga teachers AYP.
If I could learn to own up, take responsibility of my actions and inactions, then most of my fights will be immensely reduced to a simple longing to reconnect with one-self and misunderstandings respectively. Consequently this would save me a lot of pain, time and embarrassment, not mentioning the psychological and physical injuries that I sustain in dealing
Yoga gives me tools to deal softly and effectively in resolving both internal and external conflicts in my life. Coming from being a YES, a theme of Baptiste yoga; one learns to embrace and acknowledge the parts they play in the self written script of their own life. Each one of us is the sole choreographer, script writers and sculptors of the lives that we lead. So it’s only logical that we don’t let our emotions and other external factors including other people to run our lives. We hold the key to unlock that which binds us negatively. We can release ourselves from this bondage; only if we knew how. Come and find out on a yoga mat as you carry out a self inquiry.Learn and share the secret of unbinding as we travel down the journey into power with Baptistevinyasa power yoga!