By Sarah McGrath
While my trip to Kenya with The Africa Yoga Project already seems like it happened a lifetime ago (I’ve been home since March 14th), I am still touched daily by the influence of my experience. Prior to leaving many people warned me, “this trip is going to be life changing” which seemed to hold some ominous overtone, and while I may not necessarily be able to articulate what exactly about it was life changing, I do know that I more committed to the notion of possibility and aware of our potential as humans to serve on a daily basis. The Africa Yoga Project slogan is “It’s impossible NOT to make a difference,” and this I truly believe. The question then becomes, what kind of a difference do you want to make?
The experience I had with AYP was abundant. It was challenging, inspiring, heart warming, heart breaking, dirty, frustrating, hopeful, beautiful, familiar, unfamiliar, and sweet. I was immersed in a group of 20 + people including the Seva Safari participants, the AYP directors and the AYP teachers and we worked and played hard the entire 12 days. The notion integrated into everything that we did was that service, or seva, is possible in every way in which we conduct ourselves in any community. For example, the choice we make to share, rather than retreat, which we might do as a result of our own personal insecurities, is of service, both to ourselves and the recipients of our sharing. The choice we make to take care of ourselves and make healthy decisions is of service to not only ourselves, but to the people we relate to in our lives. When we hold the value of community as crucial to our individual value, everyone involved benefits. These ideas aren’t new to me, but they certainly registered in a bigger way while at a distance from my regular routine and environment at home.
I could write pages and pages detailing our adventure, which isn’t exactly appropriate for the blogosphere, so instead I’ll list a few highlights:
– We built a roof top playground using all local materials (like tires of all shapes and sizes, local hard wood, and recycled flip flops) in 4 ½ days, 4 of those days without the use of power tools
– We practiced yoga in a hotel conference room, in an orphanage, on the dirt floor of a “social hall” in a slum, in schools, in a Massai village, and on a platform tent facing Mt. Kilimanjaro
– We shared the practiced yoga with adults, children, men, women, boxers, acrobats, individuals with severe hearing impairments and other disabilities, expats and Kenyans
– I tied with a Kenyan acrobat in a handstand contest in front of a class of close to 200 people (couldn’t help sneaking that one in)
– We painted a school at a women’s prison where AYP offers yoga classes as a reward to women who volunteer to be HIV tested (it’s amazing what a coat of paint can do). The school is for their children as children ages 5 and under are permitted to live with their mothers in the prison. As a result of the extra funds that we raised beyond our initial goal, we were able to provide an awning for the women so that they can practice yoga in the shade rather than in the Kenyan heat
– We were given the gift of poetry and dance – The girls at The Kibera School for Girls recited a poem about women and education on International Women’s Empowerment Day. We were also greeted by the Massai in their traditional dance and sung to many times by the Massai school children. As a result of more extra funds, we were able to provide new textbooks for the school in the village
– We saw elephants, giraffes, monkeys, water buffalo, zebras, rhinos, hyenas, and a small deer-like animal called a dik-dik
– We witnessed the strength and potential held in community and the possibility that comes out of saying “yes”
I left for the trip wondering if yoga would be much different in a place like Kenya as opposed to Fairfield County, CT. In many ways, it isn’t all that different. As individuals, no matter what race, background, nationality, gender, or age, we have all that we need to create more greatness and that greatness just grows exponentially when it is shared. As I look back on my initial fundraising page, I wrote “As a teacher and student of yoga, I have empowered my life, my relationships, my voice, my body, and my spirit to see and experience a world of possibility rather than one of limitations.” This trip simply affirmed what I already knew but perhaps with each affirmation, we are able to believe more firmly in our paths that we choose.
Pictures speak volumes and I took a volume of pictures (over 700!) I’ve chosen a few to share and hopefully give you a better impression of what impressed me.
Click here to see photos.
Thanks for reading! And if you have any interest in getting involved with AYP, please let me know.
By Sarah McGrath