Yoga Changes the Lives of Disadvantaged People, Kenya

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23 Mar 2014 22:00

In Kenya, yoga is the new trend. The practice of yoga is increasingly popular among the poorest parts of the capital Nairobi, thanks to Paige Elenson and her partner Baron Baptiste, two famous American yoga teachers who decided to create the not-for-profit organization Africa Yoga Project in 2007. Their goal was to create job opportunities and empower youth in impoverished areas of Nairobi.

The two teachers raised $10,000 to found the organization and train 40 Kenyan yoga instructors. Today, 72 instructors are working in impoverished areas of Kenya such as schools and prisons.

Margaret Njeri is one of the teachers. She was an acrobat before starting the yoga-training program. The young mother says earning a living as an acrobat was not easy. She sometimes even had to turn to small crimes to survive. She is now paid $100 a month to teach five classes a week in prisons, schools and other destitute parts of the city. The rest of the time, Margaret teaches private classes to round up her salary. Thanks to yoga, she is now able to support herself and her one year-old daughter.

53 year-old instructor Samson Muhalia says yoga has a positive impact on people. “What I really like in yoga is that it brings people together and teaches them how live together. It makes people share and discuss”.

Photos By: Jacob Banzani

Nairobi Kenya Children

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African Yoga 1
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Children during a yoga class at the Hafra Hope Academy in the Kangemi slum. The yoga pose is "Parsvottanasana" or Intense Side Stretch Pose.

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African Yoga 10
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Samson Muhalia, 53, with his niece in his apartment in Kangemi, Nairobi. He is preparing himself to go teaching outreach classes in the Kangemi slum. Samson worked for UN-Habitat for 21 years before becoming a yoga teacher. He used his knowledge in construction to help the Africa Yoga Project to build different structures. Sixteen years ago, he injured his back after a car accident. When he joined the Africa Yoga project, he created some yoga poses that little by little healed his back. He saw many people changing positively because of yoga. He said what he really likes about yoga is that brings people together and teaches them how live together - it makes people share and discuss.

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African Yoga 11
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Children doing the yoga post "Urdhva Hastasana," or Upward Salute.

The NGO Africa Yoga Project (AYP) aims at educating, empowering and employing youth from Kenya, through the practice of yoga. They explain the benefits of the practice on a person : "personal empowerment, emotional healing and increased physical health and vitality." They assume yoga have a positive impact on young people coming from poor neighborhoods. Today, 5,000 people are participating in the program. AYP gives more than 250 250 community yoga classes weekly in 80 locations.

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African Yoga 12
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Samson Muhalia,53, in his favourite pose (Bakasana or Crane Pose) in a street of the Kangemi slum. Samson worked for UN-Habitat for 21 years before becoming a yoga teacher.

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African Yoga 13
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Samson Muhalia, 53, outside his apartment in Kangemi, Nairobi.

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African Yoga 14
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa, 21, during one of her first yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah suffers from albinism but she feels empowered through yoga. "Thanks to yoga," she says, "I've learned to appreciate how I am and to love myself; I can teach and inspire people." The yoga pose is "Garudasana," or Eagle Pose. Empowering people is at the core of the NGO Africa Yoga Project (AYP). Sarah is one of the 52 teachers of AYP. They teach in prisons, schools, centers for special needs, HIV/AIDS support groups, deaf schools and rural villages.

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African Yoga 15
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa (21), during one of her first yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah is affected by albinism but she feel empowered through yoga. "Thanks to yoga," she says, "I've learned to appreciate how I am and to love myself; I can teach and inspire people." The yoga pose is "Padahastasana," or Hand Under Foot Pose.

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African Yoga 16
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa, 21, during one of her first yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah is affected by albinism but she feel empowered through yoga. "Thanks to yoga," she says, "I've learned to appreciate how I am and to love myself; I can teach and inspire people." The yoga pose is "Dhanurasana," or Bow Pose.

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African Yoga 17
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa, 21, helps a student during one of her first yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah is suffers from albinism, but she feel empowered through yoga.

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African Yoga 18
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

A game played during a yoga class held by Susan Njeri, 23, and assisted by Benta Atieno, 19, in Kibera Hamlets School. Susan started yoga after high school when she didn't have enough money to continue her education. "I really like yoga," she adds, "because it allows me to calm down when I am angry, through meditation, and because it allows me to connect to the community. Seeing how many children we can make smile with our lessons brings me happiness." A selection of standing poses, stretching and games are practiced in the school. The exercises are made easier because children are often malnourished.The yoga pose is "Vrksasana" or the Tree pose.

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African Yoga 19
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Lilian Adhiambu, 27, right, chats with Faith Kwamboka, 32, left, while waiting for a Skype call from her mentor, a yoga teacher located in the United States. Mentors pay $100 a month to their student. While this money allows them to focus on their yoga studies, in exchange they have to offer 5 free classes a week, called Outreaches, in needy communities of Nairobi. Lilian was born deaf and she has practiced yoga since she was two years old. She teaches in several schools for the deaf to children between 7 and 13 years old. Faith was an acrobatic instructor and a yoga teacher since 4 years. She's used to practice with deaf and blind people. Yoga brings me union and love, she says.

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African Yoga 2
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Children watch the director of Hafra Hope Academy in the Kangemi slum as he takes part to the yoga class. In the Kangemi slum, the hall is used as a church on Sundays. The yoga pose is "Urdhva Hastasana," or Upward Salute.

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African Yoga 20
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Nicole Akoth, 21, and her 3-year-old son Alex outside her family apartment in Kariobangi, Nairobi. Nicole has been practicing yoga for two years. She loves kids and teaching them because she thinks she help them feel that they would be able to be anything they want in life. Thanks to yoga ,she became more courageous, stronger and less shy in life, while also more stable financially. She dreams of opening her own yoga center and also an art school.

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African Yoga 21
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

A female prisoners stretch during a yoga class in the Langata Women Prison. Some of the prisoners attending the class are still awaiting trial. Since many of the women are HIV positive, the teachers practice a milder form of yoga combining stretching and games. As a prisoner, Sharon said, "Even if sometimes I am too tired to do it, when I do it, I don't feel neglected but I feel loved."

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African Yoga 22
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Benta Atieno, 19, teaches a yoga class in a school in Kibera, considered to be one of the largest slums in Africa. Benta started the course to become a yoga teacher, with the Africa Yoga Project, after finishing dress-making school in 2009. Before starting yoga, she was very lazy and unsure about herself, even about making dresses. She says she was feeling heavy and suffering after walking a short distance. "I was also very shy," she recalls, "and at the first lesson I was even too shy to say my name and I covered my eyes." A selection of standing poses, stretching and games are practiced in the school.

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African Yoga 23
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Margaret Njeri, 23, and her assistant Catherine Nyambura, 20, are waiting to leave after a class in the Langata Women Prison.

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African Yoga 24
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Margaret Njeri, 23, perform an acrobatic trick in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi that is predominantly inhabited by Somali immigrants. It is known also as "Little Mogadishu." Margaret was an acrobat before starting the Africa Yoga Project program to become a yoga teacher in 2007. "It was not easy to earn a living with acrobatics," she recalls, "it was easy to injure yourself and money was very little, so often, we were doing petty crimes." She believed that yoga was a religion, but when she finally tried it for the first time, she really liked that it was both physical but has a strong meditation part to it as well.

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African Yoga 25
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

These are detainees in "Parsvottanasana," or Intense Side Stretch Pose, during a yoga class in the Youth Correction Centre of Kamiti prison. This is the largest prison in Nairobi. In this centre, boys between 17 and 22 years old spend a maximum of four months here. Most of the charges are drug robberies.

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African Yoga 26
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Benta Atieno, 19, on the way to teach a yoga class in Kibera, which is considered to be one of the largest slums in Africa. Benta started the course to become a yoga teacher, with the Africa Yoga Project, after finishing dress-making school in 2009. Before starting yoga, she said she was very lazy and unsure about herself, even about making dresses. She said she was feeling heavy and suffering after walking for a short distance. "I was also very shy," she recalls, "and at the first lesson I was even too shy to say my name and I covered my eyes."

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African Yoga 27
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Benta Atieno, 19, poses with the dresses she created in her room/workshop in Kibera, where she lives with her sister. She started the course to become a yoga teacher, with the Africa Yoga Project, after finishing dress-making school in 2009. Before starting yoga, she said she was very lazy and unsure about herself, even about making dresses. She said she was feeling heavy and suffering after walking for a short distance. "I was also very shy," she recalls, "and at the first lesson I was even too shy to say my name and I covered my eyes."

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African Yoga 28
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

James Nweu, 35, watches out the window while detainees relax in Savasana (or Corpse Pose), at the end of a yoga class in the Youth Correction Centre of Kamiti prison. For James, yoga is a way of life. Beside teaching Ashtanga yoga, he is a choreographer and teaches design at the University.

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African Yoga 29
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Margaret Njeri, 23, in her apartment in Kariobangi, Nairobi, breast-feeds her daughter Kinndli, named after her mentor. Margaret was an acrobat before starting the Africa Yoga Project program to become a yoga teacher in 2007. "It was not easy to earn a living with acrobatics," she recalls, "it was easy to injure yourself and the money was very little, so often, we were doing petty crimes." She believed that yoga was a religion, but when she finally tried it for the first time, she really liked it because it is both physical and has a strong meditation aspect to it.

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African Yoga 30
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

James Nweu, 35, shows a cycle of yoga poses during a yoga class in the Youth Correction Centre of Kamiti prison, the largest prison in Nairobi. For James, yoga is a way of life. Beside teaching Ashtanga yoga, he is a choreographer and teaches design at the University.

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African Yoga 31
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Rufus, a deaf instrunctor, teaches a lesson at the Shine Centre in Nairobi. The centre, inaugurated in 2013, host the offices of Africa Yoga Project and allows yoga teachers to give private and public lessons. The yoga teacher are responsible for its maintenance through shift rotation, where everybody is called to contribute.

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African Yoga 3
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Samson Muhalia, 53, teaches a class at the Hafra Hope Academy in the Kangemi slum. The hall is used as a church on Sundays. Samson worked for UN-Habitat for 21 years before becoming a yoga teacher. He used his knowledge in construction to help Africa Yoga Project to build different structures. Sixtenn years ago, he injured his back after a car accident. When he joined Africa Yoga project he found that some yoga poses were little by little healing his back. He saw many people changing positively because of yoga. He said, "What I really like about yoga," he says, "is that brings people together and teach them how live together, it makes people share and discuss." The yoga pose is Virabhadrasana I or Warrior I.

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African Yoga 32
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

A guard massages a prisoner during a yoga class in Langata Women Prison.The prisoners attending the class are not necessarily guilty (some are awaiting trial). Since many of the women are HIV positive, the teachers practice a milder form of Yoga combining stretching and games. As a prisoner, Sharon said "even if sometimes I am too tired to do it, when I do it I don't feel neglected but I feel loved."

To teach in under privileged communities is at the core of AYP project: along with yoga practice and meditation, the 52 teachers of the NGO do self-exploration through inquiry, performing arts as a vehicle for empowerment, health education (HIV/AIDS), relationship building, and community activism.

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African Yoga 33
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

Nicole Akoth, 21, in her favourite yoga pose: Eka Pada Urdvha Dhanurasana (or one-legged variation of Upward-Facing Bow Pose). Nicole has been practising yoga for two years. She loves kids and she loves teaching them because she thinks she can help them feel that they would be able to be anything they want in life. Thanks to Yoga she became more courageous in life, stronger and less shy but also more stable financially. She dreams to open her own Yoga center and also an art school.

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African Yoga 34
Nairobi
By lordcob
24 Mar 2014

James Nweu, 35, showing Bhujangasana (or the Cobra Pose) during a yoga class in the Youth Correction Centre of Kamiti prison, the largest prison in Nairobi. In this centre boys between 17 and 22 years old have to spend a period of a maximum of 4 months. The most common charge is robbery with violence. For James yoga is a way of life. Beside teaching Ashtanga yoga, he is a choreographer and teaches design at the University.

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African Yoga 35
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Bernard Gitonga, 29, (in the blue shirt) during a Yoga lesson in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi predominantly inhabited by Somali immigrants, known also as "Little Mogadishu."

Yoga Pose: Adho Mukha Vrksasana or Handstand.

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African Yoga 36
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

A detainee exercises before a Yoga class in the Youth Correction Centre of Kamiti prison, the largest prison in Nairobi, Kenya. In this centre boys between 17 and 22 years old have to spend a period of maximum four months. The most common charge is robbery with violence.

Yoga pose: Salamba Sirsasana or Supported Headstand.

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African Yoga 37
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Nicole Akoth, 21, teaches a class in an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. The Njiru Progressive Focus Centre is a community-based organization that takes care of 97 children between the ages of three and 18. According to the director, Yoga brings the children something extra to relax their mind after school classes. Nicole has been practicing Yoga for two years. Nicole has been practicing yoga for two years. She loves kids and loves teaching them because she thinks she can bring them to feel that they would be able to be anything they want in life. Thanks to Yoga, she became not only more courageous, stronger and less shy but also more stable financially. She dreams to open her own Yoga center and also an art school.

Yoga pose: Adho mukha svanasana or dog pose.

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African Yoga 38
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Susan Njeri, 23, stretches her body in her favorite Yoga pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana or Wheel Pose) on the railway line at the entrance of Kibera in Nairoba, Kenya. Susan started Yoga after finishing high school when she did not have enough money to continue her education.

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African Yoga 39
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Bernard Gitonga, 29, (in the blue shirt) and friends perform acrobatics in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi predominantly inhabited by Somali immigrants, known also as "Little Mogadishu." Several Yoga teachers come from an acrobatic background.

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African Yoga 4
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Samson Muhalia, 53, teaches a class at Hafra Hope Academy in the Kangemi slum. The hall is used as a church on Sundays.

Samson worked for UN-Habitat for 21 years before becoming a yoga teacher. He used his knowledge in construction to help Africa Yoga Project build different structures. After injuring his back in a car accident 16 years ago, he found that some Yoga poses were gradually healing his back when he joined Africa Yoga Project. He met many people who had changed positively because of Yoga. "What I really like in yoga," he says, "is that brings people together and teach them how live together. It makes people share and discuss."

Yoga pose: Parsvottanasana or Intense Side Stretch Pose.

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African Yoga 40
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Sofia Njoki, 23, gives a private lesson to a second generation African-Indian woman. Private lessons are offered for 10-15$ and constitute the main salary of Yoga teachers who must find their own clients. Before practicing Yoga, Sofia used to be a rude girl after growing up in a violent environment where drugs were common. Although she had no idea of what Yoga was, practicing it immediately made her feel more present, focused and able to listen to other people. She decided to quit using drugs and was able to focus on her life and on raising her four-year-old daughter.

Yoga pose: Utthita Parsvakonasana or extended side angle pose.

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African Yoga 41
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Benta Atieno, 19, and her assistant Susan Njeri, 23, teach a Yoga class in a little school of Kibera, considered to be one of the largest slum in Africa.

After finishing from the dress making school in 2009, Benta started the course with Africa Yoga Project to become a Yoga teacher. Before starting Yoga, she was shy, lazy, felt tired and heavy after walking for a short distance, unsure about herself, and her ability to make dresses. Benta was feeling heavy and she was suffering after walking for a short distance. In the schools. a selection of standing poses, stretching and games are practiced and the exercises are easier because children are often malnourished.

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African Yoga 42
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Sarah Neilesa, 21, helps a student during one of her first Yoga classes, as teacher, at the Nairobi Aviation College. Sarah is affected by albinism but she feels empowered and more flexible, through Yoga. "Thanks to Yoga," she says, "I've learned to appreciate how I am and to love myself; I can teach and inspire people."

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African Yoga 44
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Nicole Akoth, 21, teaches a yoga class in an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. The Njiru Progressive Focus Centre is a community based organization that takes care of 97 children aged between three and 18. According to the director, Yoga relaxes children's minds after school. Nicole has been doing yoga for two years. She loves children and teaches them that they can do anything they want in life. Yoga taught her to be more courageous, stronger and to overcome her shyness. Teaching has also allowed her to gain financial stability. Her dream is to open her own Yoga center and art school.

Yoga pose: Savasana (or Corpse Pose).

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African Yoga 43
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Margaret Njeri, 23, assisting Bernard Gitonga, 29, in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi Predominantly inhabited by Somali immigrants, known also as "Little Mogadishu." Margaret joined the Africa Yoga Project program to become a yoga teacher in 2007 after enduring difficulties to earn a living and suffering injuries as an acrobat. She believed that Yoga was a religion but when she finally tried it, she really liked it because it is very physical and also good for meditation.

Yoga pose: Uttanasana or Intense Forward-Bending Pose.

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African Yoga 45
Nairobi
By Transterra Editor
24 Mar 2014

Benta Atieno, 19, in her favorite Yoga pose (Virabhadrasana I or Warrior I) in Kibera, considered to be one of the largest slum in Africa.
After finishing from the dress making school in 2009, Benta started the course with Africa Yoga Project to become a Yoga teacher. Before starting Yoga, she was shy, lazy, felt tired and heavy after walking for a short distance, unsure about herself, and her ability to make dresses. Benta was feeling heavy and she was suffering after walking for a short distance. In the schools. a selection of standing poses, stretching and games are practiced and the exercises are easier because children are often malnourished.