I first taught yoga in Kenya in 2008 and since then I’ve witnessed the tremendous growth that yoga has undergone in the country. Back then I was one of a handful of teachers and yoga was a mystified practice. Many Kenyans maintained a cautious attitude towards yoga due to misconceptions about the religious orientation of the practice. In recent years the local perception of yoga has started to shift. The work of Africa Yoga Project (AYP) has been a major contributor to this shift. AYP is a U.S. non-profit organization based in Nairobi which trains and employs Kenyans as registered yoga teachers. Additionally, as the non-profit hub of East Africa, Kenya has experienced an influx of hundreds of European and North American yoga practitioners in the last several years making yoga a formidable industry in Kenya. Insert the Lamu Yoga Festival – an event that brought interest back to a community that had experienced a large drop in tourism due to attacks from Somali neighbors a few years ago. Every march upwards of 350 participants descend on the island to partake in yoga, meditation, Swahili culture, local music and community. The well-organized festival is decentralized, taking place at several venues throughout the island, so one can still enjoy the Lamu experience.
A couple of years ago I had the good pleasure of visiting the island of Lamu on Kenya’s Swahili coast. There’s a quiet magic that permeates Lamu and Manda (its sister island) that has a lot to do with the fact that Lamu has been in no rush to catch up with modern times. As one of the birthplaces of Swahili culture, the island is known for many things – it’s been continuously inhabited longer than any town in Kenya; there are no cars on Lamu so people get around by traditional dhow boats, donkeys or by foot; Swahili culture is ever-present on the island from the stunning architecture to the beautiful people … and then there are the beaches. Iin short, Lamu is one of the most tranquil and culturally rich places on the planet.
I returned to Kenya a couple of years ago from the U.S., and reestablished my yoga classes in Nairobi under the name Soul Flow. Soul Flow merges vinyasa/hatha yoga with global soul music. My classes and events are a celebration of movement, music and community through the practice of yoga. I’ve put on several events including Yoga on Dub: a Reggae and Yoga Festival; Mind Body Beats – a yoga workshop accompanied by live music performed by exceptional local talent; and Garden Yoga, Brunch and Mimosas among others. This year I’ve been invited to teach at the Lamu Yoga Festival. I’m crafting some special Swahili playlists for my yoga classes and in my final workshop I’ll collaborate with local musicians. I look forward to the magic of Soul Flow in Lamu.
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