Yoga Spreads Across Kenya, Creates Jobs

Yoga Spreads Across Kenya, Creates Jobs

American Paige Elenson was on a family vacation in Kenya in 2006 when she saw a group of youth doing handstands. She got out of the car and did handstands with them. It was a day that changed her life, she told CNN.

Elenson teaches power yoga, and saw yoga as a way to create jobs for young people in Kenya.

She started an experiment, mainly in Kenya’s city slums, to see if it could bring about positive changes and help people to cope with their lives.

Today, the Africa Yoga Project says it has 71 educated and employed yoga teachers who earn a living wage. It offers more than 300 free classes every week serving around 5,000 people. The project is funded by volunteers and donors and is bringing together people from all walks of life, CNN reports.

Watching a Maasai warrior practice yoga is a rare sight, but Jacob Parit is not only a warrior in one of Africa’s best-known tribes, he’s also an instructor with the Africa Yoga Project.

Parit is from the Alasiti village, the first Maasai community to combine their traditional lifestyle with yoga. “(For a) long time we believed it is like a magic. But after we do it, we realize this is something anyone can do,” he told CNN.

Parit and the other Maasai yoga instructors believe that the combination of yoga and their lifestyle can bring mental and physical benefits to their community. “Yoga helps me knowing who I am,” Parit said. “Every morning when you get out of your bed your body will ask for yoga.

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“I have been doing it for seven good years and I think I have taught 8,000 to 9,000 people now.” The yogi in traditional Maasai dress encourages his students: “Reach up, be strong like a warrior.”

Even in the city, the instructors with the Africa Yoga Project are not limited to yoga studios. Many of the free classes take place in Kibera, Nairobi’s biggest slum, where most people live under the poverty line.

Rufus Ngugi is a deaf instructor working with the project. He teaches yoga to a group of orphans in a Kibera center named Fruitful.

“I start by demonstrating,” he said. “I show them how to breathe, I show them the different postures.”

Ngugi has been with the Africa Yoga Project for a year now. He thinks the children feel connected to him because of his disability. “These are children who don’t have parents, children who have been neglected by their parents,” he said.

“They call me Michael Jackson because of the different dance moves that I do. I try to give them the best I can. To have them have a good time. To have them forget about life and enjoy it,” he said. “This makes me feel good because I can see the future; they can grow up to be good people in society.”