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January 27, 2016

Africa Yoga Project

This week we sat down with luminary Tara Koenig to talk about her upcoming Seva trip with Africa Yoga Project. She is currently on a mission to fundraise $8000 for her service trip to Africa. Here she talks about AYP and why this is important to her. She also explains what Seva means!

First off what is Africa Yoga Project?

Africa Yoga Project (AYP) was founded by Paige Elenson and Baron Baptiste in 2007 and is based in Nairobi, Kenya. Through the practice of yoga, AYP programs foster peace and non-violence, improve self-sufficiency, create economic stability and encourage new opportunities for personal and collective growth. Currently AYP empowers 250,000 Kenyans a year through yoga.  They have 98 teachers, and want to train another 50 this year.  The teachers teach in prisons, schools, special needs centers, for HIV/AIDS support groups, deaf schools and rural villages.  The outreach classes are important to the success of the program. At Langata Women's Prison, children under the age of five live with their imprisoned mothers in the prison quarters. AYP teachers provide yoga to both the women and the children. Africa Yoga Project reaches out to the often forgotten communities, teaching 300 free outreach classes a week. They are known for bringing smiles, a boost in energy and a surge of vitality. If you have ever had a rough day and thought about how good it feels to leave it all on the mat, imagine being in their position. Through yoga, AYP is enriching communities far and wide!


What is your involvement with Africa Yoga Project?

My story began in Oakville, Ontario in 2012 when I took my first Baptiste Power Yoga class. By the end of the 60 minutes, I was a sweaty mess but something had shifted.  I kept coming back, I kept getting stronger and more flexible and I still wanted more.  It was with Power Yoga Canada that I took my first teacher training in August of 2013.  That training changed my life.  I could go into a thousand examples as to how it changed me - simply put, I am now a person who wants to empower myself and those around me.  Power Yoga Canada is a Baptiste based studio and it was there that I first learned about Africa Yoga Project.

In 2015 I was a part of the mentorship program with Africa Yoga Project.  I was teamed up with one teacher in Kenya and we would Skype, set goals and inspire one another.  My year as a mentor was incredible. My mentee was one of the deaf teachers working with AYP. I was amazed that he was able to teach to anyone even with a disability. I was encouraged by my mentee to get to Kenya and see for myself just how inspiring the project is.  

What does seva mean?

Seva is a sanskrit word for selfless service or work performed without reward or repayment. For me, seva is a chance to observe another culture, make connections and support new yoga teachers. I will get to see first hand how yoga teacher trainings can completely unwind and then build a person up again. I have been to 4 teacher trainings now and I am both excited and nervous to be a part of it all. I feel my Seva trip is different from other humanitarian efforts in that I will be on the assisting team as the participants transform from students into teachers.  Rather than coming in to fix something and then leave a week or two later - we are creating new employment opportunities, supporting the students as they move through the training and empowering the program to continue to create possibility through the teachings of yoga across the continent. 

What does the money you are fundraising go towards?

This is the question I have been answering most often. The money that I raise will go to support the efforts of Africa Yoga Project. This includes their outreach work (such as the free outreach classes), service projects during the trip, health education, relationship counseling and relationship building and my program fee for the actual training.

How can we help?

When I first started to talk about going to Kenya it was terrifying to think about raising $8000.   For me, asking for help has always been an issue, especially when it comes to money. This whole process has made me step out of my comfort zone. I am reaching out to people I would have otherwise never spoken to, repeatedly posted online about my fundraising page and been getting creative with how I can raise funds. Currently I make mala necklaces and bracelets to sell around the Bow Valley – donating all proceeds to the cause. Rather than me just paying the whole cost myself – fundraising ensures I am educating as many people as possible about AYP and what they are doing. I am so grateful that I found yoga and love to share this passion with everyone.  I am so grateful for all the support I have had so far and know that I can reach my goal. My fundraising link is here www.gofund.me/9menshhg. Please check it out, donate and share!

For more information on the project please check out www.africayogaproject.org

Tara Koenig
Tara making her malas to help fundraise for her trip.

Tara Koenig
Tara's vision board for this year



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