Handstands, Hugs & Happiness Tour Coming to Columbus
“I get chills just thinking about it,” said Leah Westwater, “It has so much potential.”
Members of the Africa Yoga Project are coming to Columbus on October 30 thru Nov 1, 2017 as part of their Handstands, Hugs & Happiness Tour to share joy and their mission to create jobs and leaders for change in Africa.
Since 2007, Paige Elenson, who received the Muhammad Ali Global Citizen award this year, has been creating yoga jobs and a yoga culture in Kenya. “It all started with a handstand” she did with some Kenyan acrobats while visiting Kenya as a tourist.
“That handstand literally turned my life upside-down,” said Elenson. The acrobats begged her to teach them yoga; she found out that they were living in one of the sprawling informal settlements surrounding Nairobi and that 70 percent of youths in Kenya were unemployed. Elenson knew that she had to stay in Kenya to help. She founded the Africa Yoga Project Shine Center and persuaded her yoga teacher, Baron Baptiste, to come to Africa to do a yoga teacher training.
“I knew that we could provide jobs and give people the power to transform,” said Elenson. The Africa Yoga Project now has over 200 yoga teacher graduates earning a living wage teaching yoga and giving their students skills to change their lives.
“It is inspiring the way people’s lives have changed thru yoga here in this country, but in Africa it can be even more incredible,” said Westwater.
Westwater and Nicole Klasa, co-creator of Balanced Yoga, have been involved with the Africa Yoga Project since they met ambassadors from the AYP at Baptiste Power Yoga training. Balanced Yoga gives a monthly donation to the AYP to help fund the community center as well as sponsor a yoga teacher in training. Westwater and Klasa personally mentor the students with regular conference calls and assignments, too.
“It is a real reality check,” said Westwater. “We think we have problems getting to yoga class, but it is amazing what they have to go through there.” For example, delays due to Columbus traffic are nothing compared to not having a regular bus system at all, or reliable electricity. The yoga teachers who graduate are committed to doing multiple free outreach yoga classes every week all over Africa; they teach an estimated 6,000 free classes every week.
“[The] Africa Yoga Project is creating social change by giving youth the opportunity to make a deep impact on their communities while earning a living wage,” says Westwater.
More information on the Africa Yoga Project, including a moving introduction featuring AYP graduate Margaret Njeri and founder Paige Elenson:
On Monday, October 30 at Balanced Yoga in Clintonville, Kenyan yoga teachers will share their culture and meet students at 6 p.m. then conduct a donation-based Baptiste Power Yoga class at 7:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, November 1, Replenish Spa Downtown will hold a meditation and lunch event. Finally, there will be a community gathering November 1 at Two Dollar Radio at 7 p.m. All proceeds from these events sponsored by Balanced Yoga go to supporting the Africa Yoga Project.
For more information, visit BalancedYogaStudios.com.