How Yoga is Transforming a Kenyan City…

(This is an excerpt of Anna Clark’s article @ on Feb 10, 2011)

In Nairobi, the Africa Yoga Project is training HIV+, poor, and disabled citizens to be yoga instructors, creating jobs and changing lives. |

‘ Here is what the Africa Yoga Project wants you to know: it is not religious. Nor is it a collective of devil worshippers. If you come to AYP’s free and rambunctious Saturday morning class in Kenya’s capitol city, you will certainly not be lured into practicing an unfamiliar faith. Also, AYP will not give you money to do a few downward dogs.

Given the missionary tradition of East Africa, these are the not unreasonable suspicions AYP instructors face when they invite Kenyans to practice yoga. But just over three years since its founding by American ex-pat and yogi Paige Elenson, AYP has gathered enormous momentum. Those Saturday classes? About 70 people come each week, many travelling some distance to the studio in Sarakasi Dome on Nairobi’s Ngara Road. Students show off their acrobatics before the opening child’s pose—balancing on each others’ knees, pulling themselves vertical.

Throughout the two-hour yoga class in a sunny room marked by colorful graffiti and gleaming mirrors, students noisily whoop and groan and sigh with relief as they move through a vinyasa flow. There is no meditative music playing; the sounds of this studio are all voices and breath and movement. As the teacher of this class rotates, AYP instructors practice alongside newcomers, children, mothers, teenagers, and a handful of ex-pats. Afterward, sitting up on the dusty black mats, everybody claps.

By training yoga instructors who come from the same Nairobi slums that are the center of the program’s outreach, and by making explicit connections to the acrobatic and dance arts many potential yoga students are already doing on street corners, AYP hosts 200 free classes a week, reaching 3,000 students with 42 local yoga instructors. Most students are aged 16-30, living on about $2 a day, and many live with HIV/AIDS.

Recently, AYP initiated classes for people with disabilities, particularly people who are deaf; the yoga flow of these groups are designed to cultivate new kinds of bodily comfort and celebration. AYP also practices yoga in three Kenyan prisons, including one for HIV+ women where children up to the age of five live with them—and enjoy yoga classes of their own at their school on the prison grounds.

Moses Mbajah, AYP’s country director, said yoga carries special import for incarcerated people who are “always isolated, and feel like they are not wanted in our community. They can learn to become strong and flexible from yoga, and see there is something outside [the prison walls] for them.” Some inmates who have been released continue to practice with AYP; one of them is looking into teacher training….’

AYP at Barcelona Yoga Conference

The Barcelona Yoga Conference has the goal to mantain a sustainable living in the world around us. Therefore, a 3% of each entrance will be donated equally to three solidarity projects wich we believe in:

Green Yoga Project is the artist that will bring some green colour to our painting.
Amma’s ashram is the loving kindness that will touch us in every hug we give and recieve
Africa Yoga Project is the photografer with the perspective of a bigger picture, ready to make of this gathering something beyond boundaries, race and condition

Paige Elenson (co-founder of AYP), Moses Mbajah and Margaret Njeri will give a strong presence  of Africa Yoga Project at the Barcelona Yoga Conference this July.

BYC Programm


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