Category Archives: Culture

Africa Yoga Project: Inspiring Social Change in Africa

Martin Luther King  said it best when he noted, “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better”.

Certainly in the case of the Africa Yoga Project, which came about as the result of one young native New Yorker’s passion, this is definitely true. 

The Africa Yoga Project (AYP), which was established as a non-profit organization in 2007, currently enables close to 5,000 people to participate in over 200 weekly workshops throughout Nairobi.   It also provides a viable livelihood for local yoga teachers who a few years ago may have had little hope of finding any job that would help them to feed and take care of their families. Now, the 98 AYP teachers share their knowledge and love of yoga, teaching in prisons, schools, special need centers, HIV/AIDS support groups, deaf schools and rural villages throughout Kenya. 

AYP Co-Founder, Director and human dynamo Paige Elenson, who now lives in Africa, is constantly busy, working out of the AYP community yoga center in Nairobi (known as the ‘Shine Center’).  

However, we were thrilled that she was still able to put aside some time to discuss with Muuyu how the AYP came into being, its principles and plans for the future.

Africa Yoga Project, Muuyu, Yoga, Wellness, Mindful living

How did the Africa Yoga Project come about?

In 2006, I was on a safari in Kenya with my family when I saw a group of young Kenyan men doing handstands in the middle of the bush.

As a yoga teacher my first reaction was to jump out of the vehicle and do handstands with these young acrobats.  Little did I know this brief connection would forever change my life.

After returning to New York I was contacted by the Kenyan Acrobats and asked to come back to teach them yoga.  My heart said yes.

What I did not realize was that I would be staying in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, where most people live on less than $1 a day.

It seems that the communities of East Africa have really embraced this project – How did you ensure that AYP remained rooted in empowering and enabling local individuals?

AYP staff members and teachers are almost completely from where we work,  ensuring we are in touch with the real need on the ground and that we remain true to our vision and mission.

We are also constantly reviewing our activities to ensure we are on track to achieve our goals.

Many of the people practicing yoga through the Africa Yoga Project live in terrible conditions, whether it’s in slum areas, prisons or orphanages. How does yoga actually benefit them and is the environment within which they live integral to AYP’s teaching methods?

We strive to create empowerment and employment for youth from marginalized communities, to open up new possibilities for leadership and self-sustaining incomes.

The outreach programs also reach out to marginalized communities to share health and well-being practices.  Through yoga we are elevating communities far and wide!

What is your most memorable moment with regards to the Africa Yoga Project?

I have so many memories and people who are close to my heart it would be hard to choose just one.  I consider it a privilege to be part of the process and I treasure every moment.

In fact, just last week a moment that I have been waiting for occurred.

Mainstream media seems often to leave out people of color as representatives of yoga professionals.  So I was so excited when I opened last month’s Yoga Journal and saw an Africa Yoga Project teacher as a model!

This means so much to me – that we are able to affect the global community and be a stand for diversity and inclusion, that a young man from the urban slums in Kenya can be a Yoga Journal model.  Anything is possible!

What are the future priorities for the organization?

AYP plans on becoming the biggest and highest quality yoga training academy in Africa, where we graduate the best of the best in terms of wellness experts.  The potential of the wellness industry in Africa still remains largely untapped, but our instructors/graduates are slowly filling the niche.

If someone wanted to get involved with the project how would they do that and are their skills that are specifically welcome?

We welcome anyone who wants to be involved in AYP!

Anyone can come to the Shine Center in Nairobi at 10 am every Saturday for our free community class, which is always followed by a free vegetarian lunch.

We have studio classes at the Shine Center and in Pop-Up studio locations across Nairobi throughout the week.  We update our calendar on the website so do please check here.

Anyone can arrange a private class in their workplace or home with our qualified teachers.

You can also register for our annual 200 hour yoga teacher training by applying on-line, and you can apply to a scholarship if you live in Africa and meet our criteria.

As a mentor, the Mentor Program is a 12-month commitment.  The monthly contribution of $125 pays for the salary of an AYP teacher. Mentors and AYP Teachers engage in monthly Skype conversations and email exchanges.  In order to facilitate learning and sharing a new theme is presented each month based on the year of the mentee.

One can also volunteer by being part of the Seva Safari team, which is an opportunity for an adventure, service, yoga practice, and building community.  We have trips planned all year round.

So you see, opportunities to plug in are plenty! I would encourage anyone interested to visit our website  to learn more.

Siobhan01

Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content withMuuyu and a co-founder of the company.  Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism.  She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog.  Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life.  However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.

Connect with Siobhan here.

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A funny thing happens when you put a team of people in a room…

 

Over the last few months – heck, weeks, really! – there have been a lot of changes in Muuyu. We’ve been trying to get to the absolute heart of how we can best deliver everything that Muuyu has to offer to the wider world. You see, Muuyu as an online yoga platform providing live classes in real time to students around the globe is doing something quite unique at the moment. It’s redefining how we connect – to our yoga practice, to ourselves and our bodies, to the world that we’re constantly creating.

Yet it’s a simple idea. Really. I mean, think about it.

Bringing teachers and students together in a live class through the internet – what could be easier and more convenient in today’s world of digital interconnectedness where global travel, either for business or fun, is the norm for so many?

As CEO of Muuyu I’ve always known that a platform like this would be great. Great for teachers because it can liberate them to connect with their regular pupils as well as new students no matter where they are in the world. And great for students because it can give them the freedom of practicing yoga with world-class teachers from the comfort of their own homes or when they themselves are travelling. It is also an answer for those questioning how they might find a way into yoga but for geographical, health or other reasons can’t make it to a local studio class.

Still, it hasn’t always been easy for me to fully express all the benefits of Muuyu to others. Sometimes, when you’re so close to an idea, when you’ve been dreaming, living, breathing this idea for so long, you need other people to reveal all that’s been hiding in plain sight, to ask those questions for which the answers have always been intuitive feelings for you in the past, but which you now need to find a way to express openly.

So that’s what the team at Muuyu has been doing. I could say things like we’re ‘developing our strategy’, or ‘analyzing’ and ‘forecasting’ but mostly we’ve been sitting in a room together talking and questioning and dreaming and laughing.

Because a funny thing happens when you put a group of people together in a room to discuss one idea: a whole host of other ideas start to snowball, ideas that I could never have thought or dreamed of on my own. Crazy, singular and smart ideas that all come back to Muuyu’s main intention, which is to help anyone and everyone do yoga their way, on their time and in their own space. They’ve teased thoughts out of me I didn’t even know I was thinking and brought so much new thinking to the table that I feel as excited now as I was when the idea of creating a connected community of people through an online, live yoga platform first started to come into focus for me.

We’re starting to put real shape on these ideas as well as an action plan in place and we promise to keep you updated each step of the way. We’ve been pretty quiet this last while but that’s all about to change as we’ve a whole host of new possibilities that we want to share.

In the meantime, check out our website, do a class – if you’re a first time user whatever class you chose will be FREE! – and while we’re opening up to you, please feel free to share any ideas with us that you might have about Muuyu.