Helping Others, One Handstand at a Time

It all started with a handstand. Paige Elenson was on a family trip in Africa when she connected with some fellow inversion junkies in passing. They shared tips and tricks and contact information to keep in touch. Little did they know, this chance encounter was about to turn entire lives upside down.

Paige saw first-hand the power of connection that yoga offers the world. The cross-cultural, knows no boundaries, no age, makes you laugh while upside down kind of connection that empowers and keeps people coming back for more and more and more. Inspired by this connection, Paige returned to Kenya and founded Africa Yoga Project (“AYP”) in 2007.

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What AYP does is nothing short of miraculous. The organization educates, empowers, elevates and expands employability with youth in Africa using the transformational practice of yoga. AYP creates opportunities for youth to step into their greatness and become self-sustaining leaders in their communities. Today, the organization employs more than 100 teachers, offers 300 weekly classes, and reaches 6,000 students weekly.

Wow. Just wow. What’s just as incredible is how much this organization inspires people across the world to show up and contribute to the cause. I found out about AYP at Baptiste trainings in June and October 2016. During these trainings I learned about Baron Baptiste’s own trip to Kenya and met AYP teacher training graduates Patrick, Millie and Walter. Hearing their stories and having their support during my own training really struck me. One of the main teachings in Baptiste yoga is “be up to something bigger than yourself”. Seeing others embodying and living from this idea was extremely powerful and I felt called upon to be a part of this cause, to support other teachers and give back to the practice that has given so much to me.

In between trainings I did my research on the different options to get involved, as there are quite a few! There really is something for everyone, from those looking to travel, mentor, or provide financial support. Ultimately, I decided to assist the 200hr teacher training in April 2017 in Nairobi. As a voluntary assistant, I’m also responsible for fundraising before my trip, which is totally new for me! Although it sounds a little daunting, I’m truly excited to to spread the word about AYP to my local community at studios, gyms, and through community events over the next few months. I think it’s a great way to drive awareness for AYP and connect my students with yoga on a global scale.

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Here are a few ways you too can get involved with this game changing organization:

  • Donate to the cause – Every. Little. Bit. Counts. Contributions make the community outreach efforts of AYP possible, such as scholarships, food programs, building projects, medical assistance, and employment.
  • Be an Ambassador – Have a special skill or expertise? Lead a trip of Seva Safari volunteers to Kenya to share this with the AYP community.
  • Join a Seva Safari – Great for those looking to travel to Kenya and assist an ambassador’s project you’re interested in. Check out your options, connect with the safari leader, and commit to an amazing and unique experience.
  • Assist a teacher training – Note that you must be Baptiste Level 1 and Level 2 certified to be involved on this program.
  • Mentor a yoga teacher – Connect with a newly certified teacher to help them on their teaching journey.
  • Host a fundraising event – Share AYP with your local community through donation based classes, a happy hour or anything in between.
  • Follow @africayogaproject – Stay up to date on all things AYP!
  • Share this post with your friends – You might just inspire someone to get involved too!

If you feel compelled, called, or are ready to be up to something bigger than yourself too, reach out to programs@africayogaproject.org to find out even more. Maybe I’ll even see you in Nairobi in April!

Handstands, hugs and happiness!

 

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Siobhan is a yoga teacher based in Chicago. You can follow her Africa Yoga Project fundraising here and her whole yoga loving life on Instagram. She finds joy in creative and powerful vinyasa, dark chocolate and spending time with family and friends.

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