Handstands, Hugs and HighwaysIf you're as attached to social media as I am, you already know what Handstands, Hugs and Highways is and have probably been following the Africa Yoga Project teachers on each stop of their tour. They are raising money to respond to the September 21st, 2013 attack in Kenya. Since I haven't been able to participate in the magic (yet!) I decided to reach out to some of the lucky students that have. Here is what they had to say about their experience with the AYP tour. Nan Herron, Baptiste Boston Studios student The AYP teachers were fantastic. They had all the usual Baptiste mastery, focus and encouragement, but were especially open, original, passionate, energetic and inspiring. I had several "ah-ha!" moments: 1) Rufus, who is deaf, taught a silent class. His command of yoga, sense of humor, and joy were palpable! I had never before understood how much too many words can interfere with the intensity of mindfulness and reaching in to my inner resources. The combination of his gentle guidance with the silence allowed me to have a deeper and more focused practice than I ever have. I have a new appreciation of "essential languaging." 2) Wanji asked us to commit to hug someone we don't know, which made most people squirm! I realized how closed, scared and isolated we all are, on some level, even as we try to experience our connection in the studio. I think the Kenyans have an openness that we all need to learn from and encourage more of in our Boston-based studios! 3) Catherine talked about the community at the Shine Centre, how they have a free 2-hour class on Saturdays with free lunch and lots of room to "hang out" and socialize. We do not have such a beast! If only we had more of a community gathering spot, we could create a sense of closeness that is not limited to our classes. I love the idea of doing more connecting to the community around us, it would truly foster the principles of yoga that we try to develop in our practices. 4) Walter is joyful, playful and masterful in his technique! He was able to tune into individual needs of students, both beginners and veterans, and share his love of the practice. 5) Irene spoke of her connection with the "outreaches" where she travels to teach free classes and spread her passion for yoga. She spoke of teaching yoga in the women's prison in Nairobi! I felt her devotion and commitment to service. I have been thinking about how we (Baptiste studios) should find a way to expand our resources to do free "outreaches" in the underserved Boston area -- bring Africa Yoga Project to Boston! Soo Cho, Down Dog Yoga - Washington, DC What an incredibly inspiring and uplifting experience to have Walter, Rufus, Irene, Catherine and Wan-Ji oh and the rest of the AYP crew at down dog yoga in Washington, DC! It's an amazing testament to how yoga can bond people from all over the world for such a short time and allow us to feel like we've known one another our whole lives and will continue to hold each other in our hearts for the rest of our lives with love, support and joy! What an incredible experience and I look forward to reuniting with my new friends hopefully on their side of the world! What a gift that this project has sprung! Big love! Michelle Grandy, Dancing Dogs Yoga student - Bluffton, SC Energy, Courage, Strength, Intuitiveness and full of POSSIBILITIES is how I describe the dynamic duo, Walter and Catherine! The experience gained from being PRESENT during their two hours of Vinyasa Power Flow was AMAZING! From the dominance of learning how to properly perform a handstand to the hugs and laugher of a powerful yoga class, both Walter and Catherine left my two sons and myself a memorable expression and experience of love, faith, honor and determination. Handstands, Hugs and Highways... Bravo!! Tara Morris, Baptiste Boston Studios student I heard about the AYP classes being co-taught, by chance, the day before at the end of Heather's class and I literally rearranged my day to get to one . So happy I did! The AYP class was straight up on fire. She was/is soooo positive!! She was happy and *encouraging* and didn't focus on what we weren't doing or how we could do it better, she focused on all the thing we were doing right! She talked about all the reasons yoga is so awesome and so fun and DOESN'T IT FEEL SOOOO GOOD!!?!?!?! She talked about how yoga changed her life. "I became a yoga teacher and now I do good honest work and I have fun." We DANCED in that class you guys, we smiled, we had FUN! We WERE DANCING!!!!! Laura Peterson, Dancing Dogs Yoga student - Bluffton, SC My experience with Catherine and Walter from AYP was one that was powerful, uplifting, inspirational. Their compassion and devotion to what they due is beyond motivating. It is an honor to simply be in their presence. Nick Dickinson, Baptiste Boston Studios teacher
Co-teaching with Irene felt natural. My biggest takeaway was that were we simply two Baptiste Teachers from two continents who were exactly the same and had an instant connection. That instant connection speaks directly to the power of this practice and what's possible when we come from we are connected!