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Sun Salutations and the Africa Yoga Project

This past Saturday, we took our Run Inspired group to Franklin Street Yoga for a something a little different.  Sara was teaching a power yoga class and we thought it would be nice to complement our running with a little yoga.  Plus, there was the promise of Crunkleton afterwards.  Before Sara began class, she made an announcement that on Sunday morning, there would be a class of 108 sun salutations to benefit the Africa Yoga Project.  I’ve heard my friend Kelley mention sun salutations before but I had no idea people would do so many of them.  And I had recently seen pictures of the Africa Yoga Project at the new Lululemon in Southpoint, but I was still unfamiliar with what exactly it was.  So today I have two questions…

What are sun salutations?  And what is the Africa Yoga Project?

The word sun salutation comes from the sanskrit word Surya Namaskara, meaning “salute to the sun.”  It is a series of 12 poses that help improve strength and flexibility of the muscles and spinal column.  Sun salutations are also used to improve focus and reduce stress.  It is believed that the sun is the physical and spiritual heart of our world and creator of all life itself.  Therefore, it should be honored with the sun salutation.  Here is a great animation and description of the sun salutation poses.

And Sara, along with 70+ other people, did 108 of these on Sunday to benefit the Africa Yoga Project…

I first learned about the Africa Yoga Project a few weeks ago while in Lululemon with Mario.  The project “delivers innovative programs that foster peace, improve physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, facilitate self-sufficiency and create opportunities to learn and contribute across the communities of East Africa.”  The project began in 2007 in some of the poorest areas of Kenya, while attempting to answer the following questions:

1) Could yoga positively transform lives across race, nationality, age, gender and economic status?

2) Would yoga be valued when offered at no cost to the student?

3) Can people who are struggling to survive, who live in an unstable environment, and who have little food to eat, utilize yoga to transform their perception of their lives and their sense of what is possible for the future?

After seeing the positive effects of yoga on growth and development within the Kenyan communities, the answer to all three questions was yes.  Since then, the Africa Yoga Project has grown to over 4,000 participants in 80 locations.  And the project has given the opportunity to others within the community to earn a living by teaching yoga to others who would not normally have the chance to take a class.  Even more, the AYP “provides communication skill building, job training, food stipends, and temporary housing” to those in East Africa.  During Sara’s yoga class on Sunday morning, they actually Skyped in two teachers from Africa to lead a portion of the sun salutations.  How cool is that?

Yoga is something that I do not do that often, but every time I do, I feel better both emotionally and physically. Sun salutations and the Africa Yoga Project are just two more positive reasons to continue my yoga practice.  And as a runner, yoga can only help my performance and keep me off the injured list a little longer.

Click here to learn more about the Africa Yoga Project.  You can also follow them on Facebook and see some pretty phenomenal pictures.



Some homemade focaccia with delicious cheese after yoga and Crunkleton

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