Meanwhile, in Kenya, thousands of women, men and children participate in 350 free weekly yoga classes as part of the growing boom of yoga in Africa. The Africa Yoga Project, founded by Paige Elenson in 2007 started small, but has now expanded to over 80 trained yoga teachers from local areas providing classes to the people, in mostly slum areas, and extra income for those employed by the organization.
This article from the Guardian highlights the growth of yoga as a popular activity and viable occupation in Kenya. Each of the 71 yoga teachers now working with AYP give free classes to children and adults and earn 10,000 Kenyan shillings, roughly $116 a month and some teachers can earn up to 26,000 shillings, or approx. $302 a month teaching private lessons, the Guardian reports.
[Bernard] Gitonga, who teaches 150 students a week at the Eastleigh orphanage, said yoga allows him to support his parents and afford his own flat. For the orphans at Eastleigh, yoga is the most popular activity after football.
It doesn’t seem to be slowing and it may even be helping to break down social and class barriers.
On the other side of Nairobi, the project is expanding into an 8,000 sq ft centre with heated studios and will train 40 more teachers this year. Francis Mburu, 25, an instructor from the Kangemi slum, said the practice was helping to break down barriers in the city. “I’m from the slum, but I go to teach in someone’s mansion,” he said. “They start seeing you in a different way.”
While there was some initial resistance from the Christian groups – “To us, this was devil worship or someone trying to convert us,” said AYP’s development director Billy Sadia – the spiritual side of the practice is toned down for more of the physical benefits to shine through. Founder Elenson is quick to clear up any confusion.
“What we’re not is yoga missionaries,” said Elenson. “We’re not trying to save people through yoga.”
Still, the practice is life changing for locals like Mburu who told the paper, “I used to be violent because of using drugs. What yoga did was give me a choice.”
What’s maybe more, is it’s letting them know they have one to make.