This week I had the honor to meet Patrick Kiragu, a teacher with Africa Yoga Project. I took his class on Wednesday night and was blown away. It was challenging. I sweat more than I have in a long time, it was streaming down my whole body; but I also smiled more than I have in a practice in a long time.
Patrick spoke so powerfully of the transformation that yoga has initiated in his life. He was hustling on the streets of Nairobi and said he never would have dreamed of becoming a yoga teacher. Now, he’s a yoga teacher, no long hustling anything but the practice.
Patrick practices the same vinyasa flow that I practice here in Louisville. He witnesses the same physical, and emotional, changes in his students that I do. As he says, “Kenya is closer than you think.”
Throughout the week, I’ve gotten to spend more time Patrick, once at the pool with some other teachers, and then at a party with leaders at the studio. We talked about the work that Africa Yoga Project does, in the context of what has been going on in Kenya in past years. Patrick described the terror following the 2007 elections, but also the hope as the political climate has changed. He says that today in Kenya, young people listen less to the tribal stereotypes their parents instilled in them growing up. He explained that more and more people are identifying as Kenyan, and not by their tribe. There was a lot about this conversation that I couldn’t identify with, like the fear of being killed after political crisis. Listening to him speak about beginning to sett aside tribal differences, my thoughts turned to our country’s own struggle to combat stereotypes and racism. We share this human struggle, but knowing that Kenyans and Americans are both practicing yoga and standing up for unity on opposite sides of the globe makes it seem all the more hopeful.