Last Thursday, I headed to Artscape Wychwood Barns for an event hosted by lululemon athletica Toronto. From the event information and posts I had seen online, I knew that there would be a screening of a documentary, Here to Be: Africa Yoga Project, as well as a yoga class. What I didn’t know, was that over the course of the next couple of hours, I would fall in love with yoga all over again.
The documentary screening shared the story of Africa Yoga Project (AYC), showing how the community practices yoga, as well as a few notes from its founder, Paige Elenson, on how AYC is here to be. There were also interviews with two of AYC’s teachers, Patrick and Millie, who have each lived in Nairobi their entire lives. While they each had different stories to share, both contained somewhat graphic and terrifying accounts of the hardships they each had encountered. Luckily, they were able to change the course of their lives as they were introduced to yoga through AYC. Both Patrick and Millie completed their yoga teacher training with Africa Yoga Project and continue to change lives in their community – teaching yoga to children and adults alike.
As the documentary came to a close, we were told that it was time for the yoga class, which would be taught by Patrick and Millie! Here were these inspiring humans from the documentary, right in front of us to lead us through our yoga practice!
What surprised me the most about the class was the very universal language of yoga. As an instructor myself, I may have paid a bit more attention to the cueing and sequence of the class than others did. It was fascinating to me that Patrick and Millie were using the same words and phrases to teach yoga as I use as a teacher (despite our teaching experiences being quite different). It was a truly unique experience to have these teachers in front of us, knowing that yoga had changed their lives for the better and that they will continue to change the lives of others in return. The act of yoga, through movement and breath, is a uniting and universal force.
The evening ended with some questions from participants and was moderated by Alison Murphy and Holly Oullette (an AYP graduate), both from lululemon. The message was clear: yoga is changing lives. There was hard-core proof of this, right in front of us, with Patrick and Millie. Two strong individuals whose lives were saved and shaped by yoga. And while there are many more stories that have not yet been shared, yoga is spreading the message of hope to people in Kenya as well as all over the world, one breath at a time.
A heartfelt thanks to all of those we worked to make this event happen – it was an inspirational evening and I am empowered to continue to use yoga as a vehicle for change. Namaste.
Big thanks to lululemon athletica Toronto for the amazing photos.