Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on August 17, 2012
When I arrived in Kenya 5 days ago, my intention was simple: be open, and take everything as it comes. I had known for weeks that the journey I had just arrived to embark on would bring emotions, challenges, and transformation. I just didn't know when, or how.
I woke up the first morning fully jet-lagged, but with no time to even notice. We hit the ground running with orientation, and headed to our first outreach center where I witnessed the beauty of yoga being taught by a deaf teacher to her deaf students. Talk about inspiration! Their connection and energy is indescribable, I just couldn't stop smiling. That afternoon we headed out to Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa, and the largest in Nairobi. I had created pictures of the slums in my mind, but there's just nothing like seeing it in person. Looking around, I couldn't believe its magnitude...it went on for miles in each direction, and with what felt like no way out. We eventually arrived to the Kibera School for Girls where we saw the roof-top playground recently built by Seva Safari participants, and later taught a yoga class to the girls. The playground is built of mostly tires and recycled rubber, and one of the painted tires had the word SHINE written on it. I quickly photographed it, not knowing the impact and connection it would have to rest of my week.
The last 3 days I have had the opportunity to visit the dozens of places that AYP teachers are reaching: schools, slums, community centers, other non profits; and all through the power of yoga and service to others. Yesterday I attended a large class at Nairobi's Arboretum. In the middle of crescent warrior, thighs burning, sun in my eyes, the teacher loudly proclaimed, "You don't need permission to shine, so shine!".
The connection was so simple, yet so huge. A recycled tire, painted, and on a playground, reminding dozens of children daily to shine. I reflected on my first four days, and stumbled upon so many other instances where people were just shining, no permission needed. The children in the slums, barefoot, sharing mats, practicing in dirt, yet smiling, shining. The women in the prison, away from their families and incarcerated for years, still choosing to practice, create a community, and shine together. The deaf artists, limitless, practicing yoga through observation and connection.
After my first visit to the slums, I couldn't understand why I hadn't had a bigger emotional reaction. And although the emotional breakdown did come a few days later, I realized it was because in the midst of so much anguish, poverty, and limitations, these people are still choosing to SHINE.
I invite you to ask yourself if you're waiting on someone's permission. The truth is, you don't need it. So, go on. Shine. Shine big!