February 25, 2019 3 min read

Introducing our journal series, Good Move, where we talk to the incredible individuals and teams using movement to create positive change in their community and the world.

This month we speak to Paige Elenson, co-founder of Africa Yoga Project, who deliver global wellbeing in and from Africa. They practice and teach yoga with a deep conviction that the potential to change the world lives in each of us. They teach over 6,000 people in more than 360 community yoga classes  representing 19 different African countries. Furthermore, 380 young people, trained as teachers, are earning a living wage by teaching yoga to people who otherwise would not have the opportunity.

Paige Elenson from Africa Yoga Project

What drove you to start ‘Africa Yoga Project'?

Africa Yoga Project trains global wellbeing leaders in and from Africa. We empower, educates elevate and expand employment for youth through the transformative practice of yoga. The youth underemployment rate in Kenya is over 70%, therefore many youth fall into a life of crime. Obesity rates are rapidly increasing in the African Region, as in most parts of the world. Overweight and obesity, particularly in urban settings, are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and a variety of cancers. There is a common misconception that obesity and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) only occur among the wealthy. Poorer populations are experiencing high double-burdens of infectious and chronic diseases. Additionally, sub-Saharan women are far more likely to be obese than men affecting women’s health issues, pregnancy, maternal and infant health.Africa Yoga Project is leveraging the opportunity to train our greatest natural resource, the Kenyan youth, to become strong leaders, catalyse the wellbeing value chain and increase youth jobs.

 

What’s the biggest challenge you face working in the industry you do?

The biggest challenge we face is finding resources to invest in giving youth opportunities to increase their capacity as leaders.

 

What makes you optimistic about the future of movement and wellness?

According to research, the majority of yoga teachers and studio owners are college educated, home owning, middle age, caucasian women. Africa Yoga Project teachers are flipping these stereotypes on their head. They hail from the most challenging of backgrounds, Kenyan and African urban slums. Growing up they struggled to gain access to a basic education, and were vulnerable to crime, drugs and violence. They are young, educated on the streets and looking for purpose as well as profit.  This is the new normal for the evolving yoga teacher - and why they are up and comers.

AYP Teachers teach yoga to disrupt, to engage and to lead. They are starting a movement and have no limits on where they will go and what they will create. We often hear leaders ask us to give voice and power to the youth, Africa Yoga Project’s growth is an example of what can happen when we do.

Yoga class in Nairobi, Kenya

What type of movement do you practice yourself?

I have been practicing yoga for the last 20 years.  It happened over a school break and I haven’t stopped since. These days I have brought my yoga practice off the mat and enjoy running, being in nature and lifting weights.

 

Who - individual or organisation - is inspiring you at the moment?

In December 2018, we completed a Baptiste Level 2 training in Kenya. We had the opportunity to spend over a week with our teachers that hailed from 13 different countries. Hearing all they have accomplished, the stereotypes they are disrupting and the communities the are catalysing - has inspired me.

Group of African yoga teachers with their certificates

How do see ’Africa Yoga Project’ evolving in the future?

I see our current teachers training local wellbeing leaders in and from Africa - on a massive scale. I see them providing significant solutions to Africa’s youth employment and health crisis and providing the transformative and healing benefits of yoga to people all over the world!

 

Group of African children with Paige Elenson

What is the one piece of advice you would offer to someone wanting to use movement as a tool for positive change?

Listening is as essential as speaking.

 

Why should people move more?

Our body is truly our home. The same way we tidy our room daily or take out our trash, we need to take care of and move our bodies. My mom used to always tell me that “health is wealth” and it could not be more true - all the money in the world can mean nothing if your body has been ignored and a partner for the mind and heart.

 

Short Story

Born: New York
Lives: Nairobi
Career: Social Entrepreneur 
Likes: Movement
Dislikes: Stagnation
Book: Unbowed - Wangari Maathai, How Can i Help?, Ram Das Becoming - Michelle Obama
Film: Come Sunday
Album: The Sound of Music
Career ambition: Yoga teacher
Life ambition: Love, laugh and raise a happy and healthy daughter who is of service to the world
Tell us something we don’t know: I love playing twister

 

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To find our more about Africa Yoga Project and support, follow the link.

 


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