“Open your heart to the sky, to the possibilities.”
Inside of Miami Lakes Educational Center’s auditorium, a handful of students and teachers stood wobbling on foam mats, stretching their arms and legs into various yoga positions. In the center of all of this are three yoga instructors: Antony Njoroge, Luca Richards, and Walter Mugwe.
“Breathe out and breathe in life,” says Antony “and one more breath. Relax.”
Antony and Walter are yoga teachers and mentors from the Africa Yoga Project, an organization that does exactly what their name says: bring yoga into Africa.
“Educat[ing], empower[ing], elevat[ing] and employ[ing] youth from Africa using the transformational practice of yoga” is the project’s mission statement, with the vision of “creat[ing] opportunities for youth to step into their greatness, become self-sustaining and leaders in their communities.”
It isn’t just a far-fetched fantasy that yoga can help disenfranchised youths in a turbulent countries. Walter Mugwe, star teacher and mentor of the Africa Yoga Project, was inspired to change his life through yoga.
“I grew up in the slums, and I was involved in fighting, crime, and drugs. Then, I met the founder of the Africa Yoga Project, and got involved in learning, in teaching Baptiste yoga. Yoga gave me a purpose in life, and it helped me create a lifestyle and living for myself.”
However, the road to MLEC was a long one. Luca Richards, one of the yoga instructors brought to the school, was a long-time participant with the Africa Yoga Project, even living in Kenya for a time before returning to Florida.
Inspired by this project, Richards founded StandOUT Yoga, a similar program for LBGTQA and disenfranchised youths. Together, these two programs brought by MLEC’s ERA Club came together to bring yoga to students and faculty.
“Yoga serves to give me direction and hope; it’s a North Star, like a guiding light in my life,” said Richards, “and I want to bring this North Star and share what has helped my healing process with others.”
High school auditoriums aren’t the only locations that Mugwe, Njoroge, and Richards have taught in. From the beaches of Hawaii to distant Kenyan plains, the Africa Yoga Project and it’s teachers strive to bring the practice of self-discovery, a goal best explained by Antony:
“To empower all the people of Africa; to unite all people and all nations in love and peace; to help people become their best.”
Together, the Africa Yoga Project and StandOUT Yoga are determined to to teach others to as Walter summarized, “live big in a positive way.”