Fairfield County Edition

Stamford Yoga Jam Helps Young African Yoga Leaders

Aimee, Margaret and Sharifa prior to their teaching a fundraising class at Connecticut Power Yoga in Stamford

Aimee, Margaret and Sharifa prior to their teaching a fundraising class at Connecticut Power Yoga in Stamford

Photos By Roni Chastain

First created in 2007, Africa Yoga Project (AfricaYogaProject.org) focuses on both training unemployed or under-employed youth from marginalized communities in Africa as leaders and building healthy, wellness-promoting communities. Africa Yoga Project (AYP) was initially launched in several of Kenya’s poorest areas to study how yoga and movement modalities could be used to improve experiential learning and development. Currently more than 6,000 people take part in 300 weekly community yoga classes in 80 locations with over 200 trained yoga teachers.

AYP’s theory of change states, “If marginalized youth complete AYP training—which includes leadership; physical, mental, and social health; and community building/membership—then their incomes, self-efficacy, health and positive civic engagement will increase.”

Two local yoga teachers, Aimee and Tim Elsner of Connecticut Power Yoga (CTPowerYoga.com) in Stamford, were first introduced to AYP while at Baptiste Institute’s power yoga teacher trainings with AYP co-founders, Baron Baptiste and Paige Elenson. Since 2014, Aimee Elsner has mentored an AYP teacher from Nairobi Kenya. “We follow a program developed by AYP that goes through a variety of information and uses self inquiry, discussion and written assignments. The focus is on anything from personal finances to how to gather students for a yoga class,” she explains.

On July 22 from 6-9pm, the fourth annual Yoga Jam (YogaJam2016.eventbrite.com) to benefit AYP will take place on the Harbor Point Boardwalk in Stamford. It is a night of shopping, malas, music, dance, yoga and celebration of community, sponsored by Exhale Spa Stamford and lululemon athletica Greenwich. Yoga Jam’s co-founder, Megan Kuczynski, and CT Power Yoga’s Aimee Elsner will teach yoga and all proceeds from the donation-based event will go to AYP.

“The idea to do the Yoga Jam was born out of a class I taught at Exhale Stamford with Katie Cingari, the store manager of Connecticut’s flagship lululemon athletica Greenwich...After class, Katie and I learned that we had both been to Africa independent of one another and share a deep love for the people and culture. That is when the brainstorm to do the Yoga Jam began,” explains Kuczynski. “What makes it special are all the unique vendors that come, the DJ, and Henry Kwame’ Jones, the master drummer of Infinite Roots who brings traditional African drumming to the practice.”

As the AYP ambassadors in Fairfield County, the Elsners are challenging themselves and their community to raise $10,000 to support Africa Yoga Project. In addition to raising this money, they plan to travel with their family to Kenya as part of a service trip. Learn more and track the Elsner’s progress at tinyurl.com/h4jxwz9.

For more information about Yoga Jam or to register for the event on July 22 at Harbor Point Boardwalk in Stamford, visit YogaJam2016.eventbrite.com.

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