I stepped off the airplane into the unknown land. It was June of 2012 and I was making my first trip to Kenya to work with Africa Yoga Project, a non-profit that uses yoga to empower, educate and elevate youth in and around Africa. I was excited and nervous all at the same time.
I had been working with the organization for over a year in the United States, but still had not seen the work in person. I only knew from reading the stories, hearing from the teachers, and seeing the videos and pictures of what this work was doing in Africa.
The work had already impacted me, but I didn’t expect to see what I did when I was there in person.
I saw the importance of this work moving forward the first day we went to the outreach programs where the AYP trained teachers were teaching yoga. I was with three of the teachers, who were born and raised in Kenya, and we walked through the dirt streets of the Kibera slums to get to a school. Everywhere I looked, I was granted a smile. Each smile lifted my heart.
As we approached the school, I took in the structure. It was not like back home. The school was pieced together with sheets of metal roofing as the walls and the roof. The floor was dirt. There was no air conditioner and little light filtering into the room we walked into for yoga. The yoga mats were dusty from the dirt.
Immediately I wanted to change things. I thought about how I could get the things that they were missing: a/c, electricity, clean water.
And, then, we started doing yoga. The smiles brought me out of my selfish need to change things based on what I am used to and realize what these children actually need right now.
They need human connection. They need yoga to give them access to connect to what is happening in their bodies and minds. They need the tools to be able to live a great life in their own situation.
I met the students where they were in that moment and I connected.
The root word of yoga is union and on that day we were united as one. I got them and they got me.
That is changing lives. In our upcoming teacher training program, we are offering one partial scholarship for someone to take the tools of yoga into a community to create lasting change through connection. If you are ready to take this work forward, click here.
Visit the AYP site to learn more about what they are up to. There are many programs you can participate in to support moving their mission forward.
Since 2012, they have expanded their mission into many other countries of Africa. Over 6,000 people per week participate in more than 360 community yoga classes taught by AYP teacher representing 19 different African countries. More than 380 young people, trained as teachers, are earning a living wage by teaching yoga to people who otherwise would not have the opportunity.