"Nairobi, Kenya - Yoga has grown increasingly popular among the poorest neighbourhoods in the capital thanks to Paige Elenson and her partner Baron Baptiste, two American yoga teachers who established the not-for-profit organisation Africa Yoga Project in 2007." -
We are greatful to Aljazeera in bringing out the work we do in the best way possible! Thanks to Jacob Balzani for these strong images.
Here are the heart and mind opening stories and Images on Aljazeera.
Q-There are many who might question offering yoga in communities in which even basic necessities like food, water and medical care are scarce. What are your thoughts?
A - From my understanding yoga started in those types of scenarios.
The above, is an extract from Mission TV's interview with Leo Rising. Leo shared himself with the Africa Yoga Project here in Kenya. This is a man with a great soul and heart opening insights. Read the whole interview here.
Seva or service is wide and commonly understood to be a charity. Just like it runs in the old saying, it begins at home. It spreads across the paths we travel, places we live, and the people we meet.
Life is not about possession, it’s about contributions, not about status, it’s about service, not about surplus, it’s about sacrifice, but not self seeking, not about becoming rich, but about reaching out to others.“Helping or service is not because one needs to tend the other, but it’s because there is only one of us, each helping and each being helped.” Ram Dass and Richard Gorman.
“Service to humanity is not about showing passion and empathy to each other at times of need, but about regarding love in high esteem and kindness in all walks of life.” Mahatma Gandhi. Service is not just a word for symbolizing the human compassion and civilization, but it goes beyond the horizons of human nature and his creations. It is all about using hearts along with the minds in all the endeavors of humankind. This is such an inspiration, knowing that it is not about how much I am giving but about giving regardless of how much.
Life is more than just about me, life has to be more because life is much more. Therefore, in AYP, I have found not just a job and a worthy course, but also a partner with whom I intend to give my service with. I want to dedicate my time and resources in the contribution towards the success of service all over the world: to connect those who want to make a difference by sharing
skills and strengths to those who can benefit. It is my intention to keep my basket of service full to the brim as much as I possibly can. It is my duty to be of service, it is my role on this earth.
The meaning of true life is service and sacrifice. Life is meant for service, and not for self seeking Sacrifice! “Do your duties well, sincerely. Your privileges will follow unasked.” Swami Sivananda Maharaj. Swami highlights how one should hold his or her life for the service of others. The more the energy you spend in elevating and serving others, the more the divine energy will flow to you.
By doing service, you purify your heart. Egoism, hatred, jealousy, idea of superiority vanishes. Humility, pure love, sympathy, tolerance, and mercy are developed. Sense of separateness is taken away. Selfishness is eradicated. It is like taking a plane and landing some place where you you have a broader vision of what life is on the outside of yourself. You begin to feel oneness or unity of life. You develop a big heart with wide, generous and divergent views. Eventually, the revelation dawns on you and the knowledge of the Self unfolds before you. You realize the 'One-in-all' and 'all-in-One'. You feel unbounded joy.
I am grateful for any opportunity to do seva.
Each Seva Safari with Africa Yoga Project is different; the yogis who attend, the teachers who host and the work that is done is always changing and evolving. With this growth each Seva group creates a unique and everlasting experience.
This Valentine's Day, Dana Trixie Flynn, owner of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centre and Lotus Flow Yoga from San Francisco and Manhattan, came to Nairobi, Kenya. She came straight from the Big Apple with her team of colourful yogis to teach us how to grow our hearts in her ecstatic expression of yoga, music, divine love and community. Dressed in psychedelic swag she taught a yoga class and workshop to over 300 people at the Shine Centre.
The Grow Your Heart Seva Safari brought a group of Australians, Canadians and Americans inspired to experience AYP and Dana Flynn's teachings. Dana and the Seva group travelled through AYP's outreach classes, meeting children from the Gracious Kideo primary school, Flomina orphanage and Langata Women's prison. Together the yogis travelled to rural Kenya to build wooden desks for a Masai community school while spreading some of Dana Flynn's Laughing Lotus glittery love from Nairobi all the way to the dry plains of Amboseli under Mount Kilimanjaro.
Dana considers her students like family; a community of lovers. She encourages us to be ourselves in full expression and complete authenticity. Her t-shirts don logos of "Namaste Bitches" and "I Sweat Glitter". Not only do you leave her classes shiny with sweat but also sparkling in glitter.
With bright smiles and open hearts our Seva group met to practice every day with a mix of AYP teachers and Lotus Flow teachers. The energy was contagious as we chanted and cheered to yoga and music. Dana's classes are powerful and colourful just like her stylish New York/San Francisco flare. She flashes a sparkling smile as we dance, move and explore one pose to the next. Her pace is quick as she encourages us to let go of the details and simply interpret the flow in our own style while rocking out to her epic taste in music. With her signature move: OMG, a type of graceful bowing to the divine; placed between flow poses where you usually would find a traditional Utkatasana, we all say it out loud "Oh My God" in complete
unison. Her classes captivated the "OMG" experience of Seva Safari itself.
The Seva group travelled to places that we never thought we could venture. We bonded in Dana's vision as a family; singing and laughing as we took to the Nairobi slum.
Seva Safari is a trip of service, where you are encouraged to step outside of your comfort zone. Participants acknowledge their lives of opportunity and give back in understanding that no matter where we are born we are all equal and deserve equal privilege. The Grow Your Heart Seva Safari collectively raised over $60,000, including an incredibly successful NYC flash mob organized by the Laughing Lotus crew in downtown Manhattan last October. The group travelled to Nairobi to work, to see and to shake hands with those benefitting from the fundraising.
In the "Dare to Fly" workshop Dana taught us a triple mudra mantra of "Grow" "Your" "Heart", inspiring us to go deeper in unity and connection to our hearts and to Africa. "This" "Is" "Africa" she chanted as we fully engulfed ourselves in experience. We reached a new land, we opened our eyes to it with each day with each movement and each breath. The collective three Oms at the end of class were expanded in love and compassion to ourselves, to our community and our loved ones. The Seva Safari group of yogis and yoga teachers was full of light and love, covered in glitter and sparkles. The remnants of sparkles from Dana's classes are eternally imprinted on the mats of the Shine Centre representing the joyous energy that filled the minds and the hearts of each yogi who practiced with us that week.
At the end, our hearts had grown so big from everything we had learned, many of us were inspired to further our work with AYP in becoming mentors , Join the AYP teachers and community leaders in spreading the unity of love and teaching others how to "Grow Your Heart" back home.
This 2014 Valentine's Day success brought NYC to Nairobi with bright smiles, able hands, open hearts and minds. Every participant left knowing that Seva Safari has a life of its own and is totally worth the time and effort in service for truly obtaining the experience of a lifetime.
Breathing is the procedure that pulls air in and pushes air out of the respiratory system or oxygen through other respiratory organs like gills. Yogis are human beings and hence they don’t have gills, so then I have got no business discussing gills in this context. Breathing is to draw air in and expel from the lungs, to suck in oxygen and expel co2 through natural processes, to breath in and out freely, to pause and rest before continuing, to blow softly, to breathe new life into the movement and/ or to give rest from exertion.
As yogis, breathe is what fundamentally establishes the link between us as a people; it is the foundation under which all is built, like an army base where all troupes have a convergence zone,a central point of operation; it is like the root of a giant oak tree. Invisible as it is with a bare eye, it is effective enough to beat the heaviest and or deadliest animal into submission. Monicah was sharing with us the other day during the art of living workshop at the Shine center that breath is the first act we do when are born, then we cry and the rest of the people laugh and celebrate. It is the last act we do when we die then everybody else cries!
My teacher Baron Baptiste says breathe is pure, raw energy that sweeps through you like a cleansing wind. It carries Prana, or life force, to every micro part of your being. With every exhalation you literally bring new life into your body, with every exhalation you clean house. The same thing the city council is supposed to be doing on the streets except that they mostly do not maintain the integrity of the act!
He goes ahead and pinpoints out that, through matching and mirroring your movements with your breath; you peel away the layers of resistance. Breathe is what sustains you at your edge and allows you to move past it into new mental, emotional, and physical frontiers. In this way you are meeting inner resistance with a neutralizing force. If you can stay calm and breathe through your pose, that layer of resistance dissolves away.
If you feel weighed down or anxious, breathe. It will make calm your nerves and tension disappears.
If you are concerned about an arising circumstance, or stuck in some past situation, breathe. It will connect you to the present and land you in the now!
If you are too fast in movement, breathe. It makes a good reminder for you to ease down, and be conscious of the life around you more.
Breathe, and have fun in each and every moment of this life. They’re too short lived and few to squander.
Yoga teaches us to be aware of our own breathe and therefore remain in touch and relevant to the present moment while being in appreciation because that is where life is; now, in the present moment.
Each year I fall in love with one child, I mean I love all of them, but usually one just grabs my heart the moment that I lay eyes on them. This year it is a sweet little girl who was decked out in a starry red, white, and blue bathing suit. She was younger than the rest of the children and she wanted to practice yoga and be part of the group. She began in the circle but after getting knocked about by the other kids because of her size, she came out of the circle and hung out with me for a bit.
Read the rest of this post and follow Michelle and Jeff's eperience with Africa Yoga Project. Inspiring people touching people's lives.
The screen saver on my computer shows two Maasai warriors touching fingers in extended side angle. People ask me to read the message on the top of the page which are words accredited to both Picasso and also to David Viscott. “The meaning of your life is to find your gift, the purpose is to give it away.”
“That’s an amazing screen saver,” some say.
And I know it is. It is a message that has transformed my life from a deeply rooted childhood curiosity to a life that feels more purposeful than it ever has before.
This year I am teaching third grade at the American School in Mexico City. Our primary years program is based on a curriculum that encourages children to develop their inquiry and natural curiosities. The central idea for our last Unit of Inquiry was: Native and modern cultures influence each other.
This was an opportunity for my kids to delve into a culture unbeknown to them. An opportunity for them to make discoveries, ignite curiosities, and for them to learn how alike, we all really are. I chose Maasai for our class.
As they began their research, each group focused on three lines of inquiry. They studied, the way of life, how their culture compares to others and how the culture has changed over time.
Thanks to modern technology, and the logistical work of Angie Wilkins, we were able to call Kenya and talk to Jacob via Skype.
I can’t tell you how excited (and even nervous) my kids were. Each group had selected one of their questions to ask. Our first call sent us to Kenyan music and we received a message saying it was busy. But during our second call, Jacob picked up.
My kids faces lit up with delight (as is mine right now reminiscing).
I haven’t met him yet, but sharing the Skype call with Jacob was proof that a person’s soul can bounce through timeless waves. My kids asked questions about houses, the colourful Maasai jewellery and what specific colors mean. They asked about clothing, arts and song, and then they asked about giving birth (yep – third graders). Their curiosity was met with enthusiasm and when our time was almost up, one of my girls shared a request. She asked if Jacob could sing us a song.
So, he did.
I can not recall what the words are in Maa (the language of the Maasai) but I can tell you the beautiful translation.
We are one under the sun,
We are one under the moon.
And with that, my children were left inspired. They created skits, games, posters and Google documents to share what they learned, and are in the process now of writing their first ever essays. They are inspired, they feel connected; they are intrigued.
This, is education.
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.