July 30, 2013

Feeling Good with Family: Last Days of Our Research Mission to Nairobi Kenya

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:39 pm by satsanga

Feeling Good with Family

Last Days of Our Research Mission to Nairobi Kenya

Africa Yoga Project Research Team



Family (jamii- in Swahili- according to the dictionaries online) was the theme for the Saturday 7/28/2013 Shine Center Community Class in Nairobi, Kenya with the Africa Yoga Project. Paige began 200+ student class with some Adele that inadvertently went on repeat. Paige explained that that is how yoga is, it repeats and repeats and in there, in the practice, you figure it all out. I loved that. It was true to what I know in my heart. In the practice, you find your truth. The whole research team was in the building and we were all in the moment. The class was co-taught by the AYP teachers and the experience was wonderful. Like the week before, it was a hard class : ). The assistants rocked it and we felt amazing at class end. We had that yoga-class-feeling of jamii or family.

 After a Saturday class at the Shine Center, there are many announcements. My mind was on the research and I was struggling to be in the moment. We were supposed to collect teacher data and Phase II student data after class. We had collected data for 46 adult students after the previous Saturday’s class and we hoped for 45, at least, for Phase II. The announcements were many. I was so very anxious people would leave and not help because it was getting so late. I had reason to worry.  First, we where headed to Thika school after the community class data collection. Second, Thika is about 1 hour away. Third, the children there are vision impaired or blind and Phase II would take us a very long time there. So, this was why I was struggling. People kept sharing and announcing. I kept telling myself, “Stay present Catherine. Stay present. It will work out.” My heart was pounding. Then, something pulled me right into the moment. A group of the AYP teachers were surprised by an announcement that they had officially become Baptiste Certified Teachers and in the group was Irene!! Irene was a member of our Research Team Family or Jamii. Ahhh, I was in the moment and glad to be there.

 Finally, it was announced that those students who were willing to help us with the research could eat first and bring their plates over to the yoga room and begin. My heart was pounding again. One person, two people, and soon a group of five people was sitting down. Ugh— not enough. Then, Joyce, Musa, and Wanji began recruit volunteers.  Soon there were 15, then 20. When all was done, we collected 47 Phase II packets! We were at target! Phew. In the midst of all that, there was a Thika surprise.

 You see, Nan and Susan had chipped in to pay for a large group of Thika students and teachers to be transported to the Shine Center for the community class. Nan, thinking on her toes, suggested that since the Thika children were already at the Shine Center, why don’t we begin Phase II with them. Of course! Brilliant! So the team split, some helping AYP community class students and others helped he Thika students. We were able to finish the Thika students without having to drive 2 hours to collect the data! The Thika students were such hard workers and so committed to the work. Can you imagine sorting ideas without being able to see them or read them- all through audio input and communication? ….. no, me either. I began hearing Nina Simone in the background—If you  have not heard her sing “Feeling Good” Google it right now- it is perfection.


“Feeling Good”

Birds flying high

You know how I feel

Sun in the sky

You know how I feel

Breeze drifting’ on by

You know how I feel

It’s a new dawn

It’s a new day

It’s a new life

For me

And I’m feeling good

I’m feeling good

Then, to the complete and utter joy of the entire research team, we had 2 hours off to get ready for the final team dinner. Susan and Nan were leaving for safari (Susan that night and Nan the next day). Sunday- Steve was heading out early to help children on the coast and Brooke had a flight back to the USA in early afternoon. Sunday morning Jessalyn, Carla, Jerry, and I along with the whole Kenyan team would be headed out to Mama Fatuma Orphanage on Sunday AM to wrap up the data collection (except Jamo- who would be getting ready for his art show). Still,  Saturday night was our official last dinner. We all waited for Jerry to secure and Jembe deal (a wood and animal skin drum) and then our drivers took us back to Gracia Gardens to shower and pack.

                                                                 Fish in the sea

You know how I feel

River running free

You know how I feel

Blossom on a tree

You know how I feel

It’s a new dawn

It’s a new day

It’s a new life

For me

And I’m feeling good

 Zack and James our drivers/security for the week, picked us up at Gracia and took us to an Ethiopian restaurant. Angie led the evening. When we arrived, there were assigned seats for the whole team- Kenyan and US. There were bags made by Benta (check our her stuff at the AYP store online- super cute). In each bag was a SHINE research team t-shirt. At each place setting, there was a set of cards and things to do. I don’t want to say too much because if you decided to do a seva safari (which you should absolutely do) I don’t want to spoil anything. I will just let you know that there was fire and happy hearts involved. We ate from big platters of sour dough bread, beans, hummus, and other amazing vegetarian tastes. Jessalyn and Musa were officially the first to eat their WHOLE platter and it is the first time I saw any competitiveness manifest from this young yogi’s eyes. I will post the photo on Facebook- Musa with a smile and Jessalyn with an intense, victorious glare : ).


We had a great time and said good-bye to Susan as she left on safari. A group of us went to the Italian place for dessert, some went to bed, and Steve and Brooke headed to the Moroccan Bar for an evening of cultural education (which I still want to hear more about- Brooke)! My heart was wide-open, thankful, loving, and feeling like family after a big Sunday dinner. Earlier that night as we were eating, I looked around the table thinking that just over a week before I was just meeting some of our team members. Other members I knew from the yoga studio, some were my friends, close friends. But after this collective effort, I was looking at my family. 

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know

Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean

Sleep in peace when day is done

That’s what I mean

And this old world is a new world

And a bold world

For me, For me

 Sunday, those of us who were left felt like people must feel when their kids go to college. Jessalyn, Carla, Jerry, and I were there and things felt small. We were thrilled to see Nan and her friend who was joining her for safari and then some of the Kenyan research team members. Ahhh- things were feeling right as the numbers grew. We hugged Nan goodbye and got into the van for Mama Fatuma Orphanage. The kids were as beautiful and hard working as the last time we visited. They completed Phase II and I think it was harder to leave this time than the last. It was then that it hit me, “We are done. We have collected all the data.” I looked at the team members and I drew my scarf to my mouth over my eyes and said, “I think I am going to cry. Wait, I am crying.” I cried tears of utter relief. We had 118 phase II packets of child students, 87 packers for adult students, and 40 teacher packets. We more than surpassed the numbers we needed for  validity and more than exceeded our hopes. Yes, I cried.

 It was now official. There were no more questions about the possibility of pulling this off. I promise you that less than a year ago when I approached Paige at Art of Assisting in Cleveland, Ohio, I scared myself with the idea of completing a study, on yoga, in another country. I stood on my own two feet and said, “Hi Paige, I have an idea.” Well, from that point on this was about manifesting something that has never been done before, anywhere else, in any form. An BY GOD- WE DID IT- me, Jessalyn, Carla, Nan, Susan, Jerry, Brooke, Steve, Irene, Jamo, Musa, Wanji, Joyce, Louis, and Angie. WE, our research family, did it. Each person on the team did at least one thing that saved the day. Without any one member, —- ahhh- I can’t even imagine. I was feeling good. 

Stars when you shine

You know how I feel

Scent of the pine

You know how I feel

Oh freedom is mine

And I know how I feel

It’s a new dawn

It’s a new day

It’s a new life

 The beauty of the day began. We arrived at the contemporary art space next to what I am pretty sure was a mansion outside of the city of Nairobi. Jamo (previously referred to as Jemo- I was misspelling) was showing his amazing photographs– a series on Kibera. The images were themed on the home as a shrine and illustrated the beauty and care that can take place on the inside of a home even in the most challenging of circumstances. It was a breathtaking exhibit. There were authors and dancers and musicians along with a gorgeous spread of food and drinks. We spent the whole afternoon bathed in beauty stimulating every sense- eyes, ears, and heart. We then headed to the national park for a Debe Debe- a drum circle with Irene, Louis, Wanji, and Musa. We played drums in the park, in the sunlight, and open air. Jerry was in absolute heaven. 

It’s a new dawn

It’s a new day

It’s a new life 

It’s a new dawn

It’s a new day

It’s a new life

It’s a new life

For me

 It was time to go. We hade to finish packing and leave for the airport. Before I close, I want to tell you about the data. We had taken to calling the bundles of completed, Phase II data packets “babies.” Each data collection trip, we put members of the research team in charge of the babies (data packets). This was done in fun and jest and in all seriousness. Our family, our jamii, had been quite productive and had “birthed” several big babies. We took the care and feeding of our babies extremely seriously. Once a team member was charged with the care of one of the babies, it was his or hers until it was placed in the large “play-pen” or suitcase in me and Jerry’s room. In fact, on the flight home all of the data went with us on the plane- carry-on- NO checking of the babies- these beautiful bundles of joy when with us on the plane!

 We got back to the USA later yesterday- data in hand. We had a little bit of a dramatic flying story- ask Jessalyn, Jerry or I in person- ugh. Still, we landed safely and soundly with the babies. I went to bed early and woke up in what would be late morning Nairobi time- so I felt awesome. I taught my 6 AM yoga class at Power Yoga Buffalo, loving very minute of it.

 I got home and threw on my running shoes and headed out the door with my music in hand. About a mile up the road, toward the falls, it came on, “birds fling high, you know how I feel…” I put the song on repeat and ran as fast as I could. I felt as if I had wings on my feet. If you ever wondered if it is possible to run, cry, and laugh at the same time—the answer is – yes, yes you can.


And I’m feeling good


I’m feeling good

I feel so good

I feel so good


Namaste! (and Kenyan Team- I miss you already)


Catherine Cook-Cottone


July 26, 2013

One Starfish at a Time…. Africa Yoga Project Research Mission Blog 7/26/2013

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:21 pm by satsanga

One Starfish at a Time….

 Africa Yoga Project Research Mission Blog 7/26/2013

 Today we began the day with a centering meeting. No need for AM yoga because later we were to do Dance Your Yoga with Billy Sadia. We discussed the 21st mile and staying strong whether or not your body, mental clarity, and/or emotional regulation is at 100%. After breakfast, we headed out to Giavanna School for the Deaf. The school is called the school of affection and also services children with autism. The Phase II process involved sorting and rating, requires concentration, and an understanding of the process. We worked through interpreters and with patience the children were able to rate the items and sort the items into piles. I was so moved by how long and hard they worked. I know the research team was working very hard as well.  

 After a break at the mall and some food, we headed out to Rehema School in Kariobangi. We got there a little after 3:00 PM and the kids were waiting. They cheered when we walked in and it was FUN! After a short yoga session we began Phase II with the children. There were 60 kids in a one-room classroom and another 10 or so children under 9 who were in need of attention while we were there. Susan and Steve taught the under 9 kids yoga, acro yoga, and lots of fun stuff for a few hours. The rest of the team worked with the 60 kids completing Phase II. These little ones wanted to help so much. The whole environment was a challenge, space, noise, number of adults to children ratio, Swahili to English, the whole thing. In the sea of these gorgeous, happy children, I recalled a short story that is a favorite of one of one my colleagues at UB- The Man and the Starfish.

 “Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

 One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

 As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

 He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

 The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

 “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

 To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

 Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

 At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,

“It made a difference for that one.”

 Loren Eiseley

 I found one child and sat down and worked with her. I went through each item with her and helped her think through sorting. Together she and I completed her sorting. I put all of her work in her packet, we smiled at each other, and I gave her a huge THANK YOU. I stood up and found the next little one who needed help. We sat down and went through his cards one by one. Then the next child and the next child. One beautiful little one at a time.

 Things can seem impossible sometimes. So much to be done and only one of you. Don’t let this stop you. Don’t let the belief that the mission is too big or too complicated get in your way. Get into your feet, your breath, and take one step forward. Any one action (big or small) of being their for others is powerful, so very powerful just as it is.

 Each child that was able to sit with one of us, was able to spend time being heard and seen. Each child that was able to spend time with one of us, got to see that his or her ideas about yoga and his or her ideas about life experience are important, really important.

 In the state of being overwhelmed, we sometimes lose sight of the power of our tiny steps in toward what is needed.

 The day ended with Dance Your Yoga. We LOVED it. Billy was wonderful, fun, and inspiring. It was also a fantastic workout. I have not done any African dancing in years and it felt amazing in  my body. We are back in our room now after a late Gracia Garden’s dinner. The materials are ready for tomorrow.

 Tomorrow– I will be heading out to do my research– one starfish at a time.

 I am thankful today for Candice Cinquino and her Yoga Jam efforts. She raised $5,000 of the money that we needed to get her during her YOGA JAM Buffalo. Thank you  Candice!

 I miss Chloe and Maya.



July 25, 2013

The 21st Mile… Africa Yoga Project Research Mission 7/25/13

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:24 pm by satsanga

The 21st mile…..

Bog Update for the Africa Yoga Project Research Mission 7/25/2013

Watch your thoughts, for your thoughts can become words.

Watch your words, for your words can become actions.

Watch your actions, because your actions can become your habits.

Watch your habits, because they can become your character.

Watch your character, for your character can become your destiny.

I have run 8 full marathons- 26.2 miles of running. The first man whoever ran a marathon dropped dead when he finished- many of us found that inspiring (haha- true). It was something I used to do to better understand myself, my ability to set and keep a goals even when it became so physically hard your body, your mind, everything but your soul, wanted to quit. This often happened to me at the 21st mile. I was always pretty good with the training program, the gradual increase in miles to prepare the body, the nutrition, registering on time, picking up my packet, all of the preparation. No problem. To start a race, easy too- it is one of the best feelings on earth. I am on fire, ready, all possibilities are in front of me. I might make my personal best time. I might even feel amazing the whole way through. This might be my best race ever. These are my thoughts.

Around the 11th mile, I have a sense of my body, the weather, and how the race might go. That is, I begin to connect with the reality of the day. By mile 15, I get the sense, a tiny sense that maybe, just maybe, a finish might not be possible or maybe I will need to walk (in the old days I took this as a huge personal failure). By the 18th  mile, uh oh… I begin to think that this is really hard, maybe too hard. I notice pains, aches. Worse than that, my mind turns on me. I begin to tell myself stories  Maybe the shoes  I bought are bad. Maybe this course is a bad course, a stupid course, and maybe I don’t need to suffer through such a terrible course. Maybe another runner cut me off, “what the heck?” Maybe no one in my life really cares if I run this or not.

By mile 21, it can get really bad. Maybe no one cares at all. Maybe I try this hard in my life in everything I do and no one cares. Why, oh why am I doing this?

Friends, we all have a 21st mile. Do not listen to the victim, blaming mind. Because guess what is right around the corner. The 22nd mile. When you dig deep. You see it. You realize that you really only have 4 miles left and you run 4 miles, easy, all the time. Then the 23rd, and the 24th, and then, by God, you can see the finish line. There it is. At that 26th mile, the last 0.2 miles of the race, I always sprint to the end (or at least what feels like a sprint to me). I feel my chest full of love and so happy for the people in my life (the exact ones I was just doubting, the ones I said didn’t care, the ones I said never care- yeah- at the 21st mile).

I don’t run full marathons anymore. I still run and I do a lot of yoga. But the lessons I learned during those races could have only been learned on the road.

It is Thursday the 25th of July. We are collecting data from morning until night for the next 2 days with one subset of the team also collecting data the last day before they fly out.

This is the 21st mile.

This AM, Steve taught a great yoga class. It was pretty much his first yoga class teaching and we are so lucky to have been there and to have had it be in Kenya with our team. Thanks Steve!!

After breakfast, Susan and Brooke stayed back at the hotel and prepared 270ish packets for data collection. It took me and 2 grad students days to do that prep during my last concept mapping study. Jessalyn, Carla, Nan, Jerry, Steve, Joyce, Louis, Jemo, Musa, Irene, and I went to Pumwani outreach and then to Kibera (see previous blogs to learn more about these areas).

During the second phase of the study, each yoga student or teacher must rate each of the items (generated from brainstorming) in terms of how important that item is in their growth within the context of AYP and yoga. For example, students told us that practicing yoga makes them feel more openhearted or roho (in Swahili). For some students, that item might really resonate and they would rate that item a 5 or as really important;  whereas, another student who really likes the physical benefits of yoga, might circle a 1 indicating that openhearted feelings are unimportant to them. After they do that, they must sort items (all of these items are then handed to them like a deck of cards, one item-one card). They sort them in anyway that makes sense to them. They might put all of the physical benefits in one pile, relationship benefits in another, like that. This process takes time and patience.

Today we had a few challenges. In Pumwani, some of the yoga students did not speak English very often. The Research Team members who speak Swahili had to read through rating and the sorting items one by one, interpreting each. The students at Pumwani cared very deeply about what they were offering, taking the task very seriously. This took a lot of time and we wanted to let them have all the time they needed.

To get to Kibera in time, we had to skip lunch. We rallied in the car like stone soup. Everyone who had a little banana (here in Kenya the tiny bananas are the sweet ones), a granola bar, or a protein bar, threw them into the mix. So, we snacked for lunch. It was likely not enough fuel for the task ahead.

In Kibera, not all of the classrooms have a roof. The room we worked in did not.  It had a stone floor. It is enclosed in corrugated metal walls and wood bound by rope creates spaces in the room. The floor is covered in a red dust, the color of the soil around Kibera (see baby elephant orphanage photos. You can get a good sense of the color of the ground in those photos). The teachers pulled benches from their rooms for the students to use. Still, it is hard to sort out 85 cards into piles with the wind, and your classmates right next to you with their piles, squatting down, waiting for someone to translate things into Swahili (for some, Enlish is their 3rd language) or even just read to you in English to help you think more carefully thought it with all of the business (researchers) around. These kids worked hard for AYP and our Research Team worked to support their hugely, generous efforts.  The Research Team was strong and made it through on very low blood sugar.

It was really the 21st mile.

But, wait. What is that up ahead? If I, we, keep our eyes on the prize ahead, the finish line, the big picture, we can see that we only have two days left. That is it. We have come here to do what we know is so very critical to making big things happen and that finish line is right at the tips of our fingers. We can either turn toward the part of the mind that questions, doubts, thinks of our own needs, or we can take a deep breath in and keep on running.

And so, we did.

After we were finished with very last, beautiful, effortful child, the children of the Kibera School provided us with a acrobat show! It was nothing short of fantastically amazing. I will post the photos on Facebook as soon as I get Wi-Fi bars : ) They played drums, danced, juggled, jumped, flipped, and stood one upon another reaching so high I could not get all of the children into the frame of the photos. Then, we went to Benta’s house with a wide-open courtyard, bags for sale, and cookies, special Kenyan cookies- ahhhh—sweet heaven. Thank you Benta!

Then, it was home for dinner. We brought all of the data up to me and Jerry’s room for safe keeping, showered, and met at dinner. The family seva participants joined us in the dining room. We saw Angie, Paige, Billy, and Penzi and heard big news about AYP. Keep you ears open! Big things are coming!

As I write, I imagine that we are headed out for miles 22 and 23 tomorrow and miles 24 and 25 on Saturday. A few members are leaving for safari on Saturday and Sunday, so the rest of the team will run “the race” in Sunday AM to the finish line. There will still be lots to do- data input, analysis, writing the study up, etc… But we will have run the data collection marathon and we will have that finish-line ribbon in all of those data envelopes filled with the thoughts and hopes of hundreds of yoga teachers and students. We will hold this data in our hearts and in our carry-on baggage (there is NO way we are checking these bags) to honor the hard work of all of the students and teachers who have helps us and the AYP mission.

I have a mantra that helps me when I need to center. “As goes your breath, so goes your heart, as goes your heart, so go your thoughts.” When challenged by long days and logistical quirks, I stand– mindful of my feet — and say those words to myself while I practice deep slow breaths.  And oh how powerful the breath can be—

Breath, Heart, Thoughts……

Watch your thoughts, for your thoughts can become words.

Watch your words, for your words can become actions.

Watch your actions, because your actions can become your habits.

Watch your habits, because they can become your character.

Watch your character, for your character can become your destiny.

Yes, it is all in the breath on that 21st mile. We have got this!

I am so thankful for my team members (US and Kenyan) who are trying even at the 21st mile with no lunch and many challenges. I am so thankful for all of the people who donated money and clothes to help us get here and to help the Kenyans with donations.

I miss and love Chloe and Maya Cottone. I can’t wait to see you.



July 24, 2013

Gifts from Each of Us! Blog Update 7/24/13 Africa Yoga Project Research Mission

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:13 pm by satsanga

Blog Update 7/24/13

Africa Yoga Project Research Mission

 Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu

 “May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and freedom for all.”

 This was the opening theme for our Jivamukti yoga class  this AM taught by Susan Fain (see end of the blog for more information and a link). After her first real good night of sleep she was ready to teach. She taught us the Sanskrit words above and led us through a sweet class that ended in a deep savasana. The theme of the class resonated with the blog I had already started shaping in my mind. That is, the thoughts, words and actions in our own lives contribute each day to the happiness and freedom of all. Specifically, I was thinking about each member of the research team and the gifts (thoughts, words, and actions) that they bring to our research mission each day.

 Susan- brings her passionate and potent language to each class and each conversation- balanced with moments of lightness, fun and joy. She is intuitive and uses this intuition to help and sometimes heal others. She cares very deeply for those around her and does thoughtful things, like knowing that Nan would love a map of Kenya and that Carla was using too much Thieves. She has solved enough problems to be called our hero– a suitable name (she has saved the day more than once). These are some of her gifts.

 Nan- is as fun as she is smart and more loving than either of those combined. She validates all of those around her, sometimes very purposely and sometimes it is because that is who she is. She has taken time this trip to make each of us a necklace out of beads and charms of our choosing. She bought each member of the research team a team t-shirt. She is on fire about AYP and wants to help make it even more effective and beautiful than it already is. These are some of her gifts.

 Carla- is where ever she is completely. She is courageous and adventurous and shows a hunger for knowledge and connection that I can only imagine has been there since she was a little girl. She sees others and I think she can feel what others feel. She is passionate about this research and so very excited about her future studies. She finds beauty everywhere and in everyone. These are some of her gifts.

 Jessalyn- is a reflective and thoughtful person. She is careful and commits when she knows she can give her whole heart and once that is offered, she means it. She is bright and sensitive. A self-described old soul, others know she can be trusteed, even little ones meeting her for the first time. In her normalness, she is unique and the good kind of bird watching quirky. These are some of her gifts.

 Brooke- is bright, a keen observer, and supporter. Early in her life plan, she is open minded and openhearted. She sees you and listens to you. Somehow one knows that if that if they need to have a sense of eye contact assuring that things are okay, you can look to Brooke for the “It’s good” look or “Yeah, I thought that was funny too” look. In this way, she is one of those people that is the glue for it all. She quietly adds her part with no apparent need for acknowledgement with reliability and steadfastness. These are some of her gifts.

 Steve- is an adventurous supporter and lover of life. He buys flowers for the team members’ rooms to welcome us, acts as DJ at AYP house dinners, connects with children who cannot see to find out how yoga has affected them, buys pens when we run out, and shows up to lunch with extra flat bread and hummus for everyone. He doesn’t mention that he has done any of these things. He just does them. He shows up, ready, and motivated to help and make change. He contributes each and every day and sees the magic in the experience.  These are some of his gifts.

 Jerry- is steady, thoughtful, and flexible. He watches over and carries our supplies and data. He is openhearted to all of our Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 ways in non-judgment and love. He is patient beyond words and as my husband has been here for me as I work to do something that I know is extremely meaningful and important. I love him with all my heart and each day we are here, without knowing how it could be stronger, it is. He even adopted (at home before we left) a baby elephant, Aruba, as a surprise for me today for my birthday (not until August). These are some of his gifts.

 Irene- is strong, thoughtful, and purposeful. She loves to dance and laugh as much as she loves to make things happen. Her voice is authentic from the core and when she teaches yoga you try harder because you can. She is able to manage the demands of the office and the needs of our research team. She loves yoga, the yoga teachers, and all of the yoga students with whom she works. When she says “downward facing dog” she might as well be saying “I love you.” It is like that. These are some of her gifts.

 Wanji- is a bright, light, and powerful soul. She can bargain at the market and bring joy to a yoga class. Her smile lights up a room and if music is playing her body is moving. She is strong minded and direct. She uses her words clearly and with passion. She is a good researcher, bringing Swahili to the research process communicating the method clearly and effectively. Her heart is as soft and open as her sprit is fierce. These are some of her gifts.

 Joyce- is a loving and caring person. She sees the pain and the joy in others. She is thoughtful and careful. She has such strong hope, perhaps it is faith. You can feel it in her and see it in her eyes when you are near her. She believes deeply in what she is doing with the Africa Yoga Project. She loves the children especially and her love for them brings out their joy. She is able to rally the children to work and inspire them to participate fully. These are some of her gifts.

 Louis- is a quiet observer and bright emerging leader. She is clear about her current goals and has her eyes on a big future. She brings a sense of heading somewhere good with strength and intention; yet, at the same time she is soft and empathic. She sees the big picture and asserts her self when she can make the bigger agenda happen. Otherwise, she waits and helps. Her effort is effective in this way. She is a hard worker and dedicated to the bigger mission. Theses are some of her gifts.

 Musa- is a seeker of truth and knowledge. You might even say he is a student of life. He loves yoga and is committed to the Africa Yoga Project. He is kind and caring. He is reliable and works hard to make whatever needs to happen, happen. Musa is full of gratitude for all that he is experiencing and for all of the people in his life. He is caretaker who worries if everyone is okay and does what he can to make it so. These are some of his gifts.

 Jemo- is an artist who is able to see the art in everything. His eyes see the perspectives and voices in the visual. His body feels the rhythm of the music and the meaning of discourse. He is bright, thoughtful, and contributes important insights as we work. He is steadfast as she shows up for our work. His is generous with his time and his efforts. He sees the future of Kenya and works to make it brighter. These are some of his gifts.

 Today was a day off of research. We went to the baby elephant orphanage and the Giraffe wildlife preserve and then the AYP House for dinner. Jerry, Nan and I were able to get back to the artist coop before dinner. We bought a beautiful and spiritual painting by an extremely talented artist- Paul Onditi. Watch Facebook for photos!

 I am grateful to Paige and Billy for having our whole research team over for dinner and want to acknowledge Penzis’ sweetness. I am grateful to Joyce for letting us all share Brittany’s birthday with her. She is beautiful and smart and a bright light (and now she is 5!!!). I am grateful to all of those at home what are taking care of everything so that we would be here. And I love Chloe and Maya Cottone.











Basic Class


Each Jivamukti Basic class is part of a four-week fundamentals course that explores a different theme each week:

            week one: standing asanas

            week two: forward bending asanas

            week three: backward bending asanas

            week four: inversions, meditation and “putting it all together.”

Whereas in the Beginner Vinyasa and Open class vinyasa is emphasized, in the Basic class alignment is the emphasis. Students are taught “how to do” asanas as well as the use of props. The Basic Class provides the underlying structure to help a student be able to eventually enter into an Open class intelligently and safely. Beginners are encouraged to take all four weeks of the Basic course. Intermediate and advanced students will also benefit from exploring the alignment essentials presented in these classes. It is advisable that a student register for the full 4 week program starting with week one, but a student can also drop into any class at any time during the month and can also take as many classes as they want each week. This class is suitable for beginners, but open to all levels of practitioner. The length of a Basic class may differ at different centers, so please check the schedule for the center you are attending.


July 23, 2013

Sthira and Sukham- Grace (steadiness and ease) and Research

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:01 pm by satsanga

Sthira and Sukham- Grace (steadiness and ease) and Research

 Blog Update: Africa Yoga Project Research Mission 7/23/2013

 Webster’s Definition of GRACE: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

Yoga Sutra 2.46: sthira sukham asanam, or “the postures should have both steadiness and ease.”

 Each day in my life seems to have a thread, maybe even a sutra, you might say. Today it was grace. Webster says it is unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration and sanctification. With divine coming from within, the yoga sutras offer us steadiness and ease—ahhh GRACE. To me, that is grace.

 Musa led yoga today, with grace. Our practice was steady, aligned, sequenced, and purposeful. With equanimity, we laughed as much as we centered. Musa, I wonder, may not know how skilled he is in his teaching. His words land masterfully in our bodies. His voice offered steadiness and ease and we gave back what he provided—grace (steadiness and ease).

 We had a huge task ahead. When working with the teacher brainstorming data, our whole team took more than a day (well into the night) to complete the distillation of data into representative items for the sorting and rating (Phase II). Our charge today was to complete this process for both child students and adult students within less time. That is, two times the work with less time. 

We worked out a strategy that we all agreed upon and began after breakfast. We created a two-stage working process. The first stage was with 4 sets of research assistants each with Kenyan researchers and US researchers. Each team was charged with going through all of the data from half of either the adult or the student brainstorming data. Nan (leader), Steve, and Joyce were Team 1 for child student data. They handled all of the data for special needs children (i.e., orphanage, blind and deaf schools). Team 2 was Jerry, Irene, and I (leader). We handle all of the data for the rest of the children (all students under 15 years old). Team 3 was Carla (leader), Brooke, Jemo, and Louis, who handled adult data. Team 4 was Jessalyn (leader), Susan, Musa and Wanji who processed the other half of the adult’s data. By noon each of the four subgroups had distilled their respective data down into items by categories ready for the smaller teams to create surveys and sorting cards. This process is not easy. You read note after note, child writing after child writing, student idea after student idea,  creating items. You debate and challenge each other and come to terms with a set of ideas. You must be steady and easy. That is, you must be full of grace. Today as all of the other days so far, each team manifested both grace and a solid commitment to our intention. They did their work and did it well, all honoring the big stuff we are up to.

We took a break for lunch. Half of the research team headed to the city to the markets. They had worked hard and had the rest of the day off. The other half headed to the Artist Coop Kuonartist Art Center led be Jemo and joined by Louis. I will post photos (I am having trouble posting on Facebook- keep your eyes open for these photos). This place was incredible. We are all going back to the Art Center tomorrow to buy art. It is more than I could imagine in terms of beauty and meaning- await further info- you will be moved. I can say right now that Jerry and I will be buying a piece from an interactive art-work called “Tower of Babble.” Nan and Carla made BIG FRIENDS. Sadly, we had to leave in a hurry to finish our work before the printing deadline.

A quick lunch led to the final stage of item distillation. Nan, Joyce, and I completed the child final item list and Jessalyn, Carla, and Jemo finished the adult student final item generation list. This takes hours of interactive negotiation and evaluation. It takes grace.

Ahhh- what a beautiful word and we shined!

We got our first print job in the email by early afternoon. The second, third, four and fifth followed at steady equal intervals. Angie went to the copy center to monitor the process. As you can expect with any research project, there are road  bumps. The copy shop printed many, many sorting cards two-sided. This does not work as each card must be sorted individually. The copies must be one-sided. So, Angie had to work with the print shop to negotiate the corrections. This is not fun or easy and we are so grateful to Angle for her strength and grace in making this happen in time for us to move forward.

Like any good research team, we waited to hear what was happening with a glass of wine and lots of water for hydration (this is Africa). After a few hours, we were happy to hear that we had secured success. Zak, the driver, arrived with the bounty (we now call our baby) and we rejoiced (with not as much grace at this point- haha).

We spent A LOT of time making sure our schedule was set and made sure we would get to all of our outreaches for Phase II. Brooke and Susan are going to be preparing 300 packets before we go to outreach and to the the Shine Center. All is set and good. Tomorrow is a regeneration day (hmmm, what did Webster say about grace?). And you must keep an eye out for our “waiting-for-copies” time together photos. It was fun.

 And so I close another night in Africa, beautiful, unpredictable Africa. I can say that the one thing that I have been able to predict this whole trip, is the commitment and grace of our team and the staff of AYP. The divine energy that comes from a higher power and within has seen us through so far and we are all gratitude.

 I am also grateful for my team, for Angie Wilkins, for Zak, and for all the people that we miss and who are missing us back in the USA (Hey Chloe and Maya – I love you and Daddy loves you).





July 22, 2013

He is a wise man who…. Thika and Kibera

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:02 pm by satsanga

He is a wise man who…..

Blog for Africa Yoga Project Research Mission


“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus

Yoga was scheduled for 7:30 AM. I had decided to work on a playlist and to offer to teach upon arrival. Musa was scheduled to teach, but it is all of our hopes, including Musa’s, that we take turns and teach each other. No one who is not on the research team will understand this, but I tried so hard to down load “My Milkshake.” Sadly, I was not able. However, I was able to find, “Play that Funky Music.” Which Musa found amusing in class. So, I offered a 60 minute Catherine- Power-Hour and we rocked it out. Steve had a breakthrough on wheel lifting each leg to the ceiling assuring to all of us that he had completely recovered from his food-bourn illness!

 The whole group met for breakfast and we prepared to head to Thika School for the Blind. At our team meeting we discussed direct communication and its power. With clear heads we headed out.

 At Thika School, we met with over 40 children all of whom had some form of visual impairment. The boys and the girls meet and do yoga in separate groups. Some of our team met with the boys and some with the girls. The work required patience from the research team members and they brought it. Almost every demographic form had to be completed individually as the children read brail and we only had print. The children had lots good things to say about yoga. Some of the children that we met with did not practice yoga and wanted to meet the visitors (i.e., us). Susan played with the children who were not yogis, taught them the alphabet, and sang songs with them (see Facebook for photos). It was super, super cute.

 I don’t know how to express to you with my words the strength of the students at this school. They know their way around the whole school area, they run, they learn, and nothing holds them back. I am brought back to Jerry’s thought that, “Joy is a Choice.” The research team that I am working with in Kenya is so powerful in their actions. Nan and Susan donated funds to bring 14 of the students and some teachers to AYP Shine Center Community Class this Saturday. I have posted several very beautiful photos of the grounds and the children at the school (see my Facebook page). Read more about Thika school at the end of this blog post.


 We had lunch at Qweru- Authentic Kenyan Food. Some of us were adventurous and some were not. I have posted a great shot of Susan with her Coca-Cola. Sometimes it is easy to find a little sip of happiness.  Then we were off to Kibera.

 Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya. I have information about Kibera below. I have also posted photos on Facebook. We walked deep into the slums. You cannot be sensitive about hygiene or standard of living. This aside, the people were making it work and seemed– happy.

 “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus

We practiced a little yoga and then commenced brainstorming. We worked our way through the demographic form in English and Swahili. The teachers brought benches into the space so that the children could sit and complete their forms. They wrote so neatly and you could see the benefit of their schooling. The children were attentive and wanted to help. They took turns, reluctantly, standing up and sharing how yoga has affected them. Like the other children we have worked with, many of them have noticed the physical benefits of yoga and a few of them have noticed how yoga has changed them body and mind. After we were done, the teachers moved the benches away and we danced. We danced an African Dance choreographed by the school and the children. It was completely grand and fun and sweaty and dusty and full of laughter and singing. We were full of—joy—and not because we had bought something at the mall or put in an in-ground pool. We were full of joy because we were dancing, dancing right in the middle of one of the biggest slums in the world. And then it was time for goodbyes and we headed home.

At dinner we were quieter today, reflective. We gathered our thoughts for tomorrow (item generation day) and after a short meeting, went to bed.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus

Today and am so proud of the Power Yoga Buffalo Community. I hear that they have raised enough money for Christian Robinson to put out his demo track! Music is the song of the soul.

Today I am also thankful for my research team. They raised money for many months and spent thousands of their own dollars to come here to work hard all day, almost everyday. I am also thankful for our Kenyan Research Assistants who are working just as hard and making this possible for us!

 Last, I am thankful for my two beautiful daughters and my mother-in-law Barbara Harrigan who is watching them so that we could take this research mission to Africa.



Thika School for the Blind is in Thika, Kenya, and offers learning facilities for children who are visually impaired. The school is a mixed boarding school, which can accommodate up to 250 children. Programs at Thika include: a Kindergarten, speech therapy and living skills for children who have more than one disability, Braille Class for those who lose sight in regular schools, Low Vision Class for children with partial sight and Braille Learners Class for children who are totally blind or partially sighted.


Life in the Kibera Slum of Nairobi, Kenya

  • The Kibera Slum of Nairobi houses 1.5 million people (nearly 50% of Nairobi’s total population) on less than 5% of Nairobi’s landmass.
  • The people of Kibera live in an area the size of Central Park.
  • It is one of the most densely populated places on the planet.
  • Life expectancy in Kibera is 30 years of age compared to 50 years of age in the rest of Kenya.
  • Half of all Kiberians are under the age of 15.
  • 1 out of 5 children in Kibera do not live to see their fifth birthdays.
  • There is no running water to most homes in Kibera.  To obtain water, residents must purchase water from private vendors, paying two to ten times what is paid by a Nairobi resident outside the slums.
  • Kibera’s 1.5 million residents share 600 toilets, meaning that on average one toilet serves 1,300 people.
  • “In many parts of the world women are routinely beaten, raped, or sold into prostitution.  They are denied access to medical care, education, economic and political power.  Changing that could change everything” — The New York Times Magazine
  • 66% of girls in Kibera routinely trade sex for food by the age of 16.   Many begin as early as age six.
  • Young women in Kibera Contract HIV at a rate 5 times that of their male counterparts.
  • Only 41 percent of boys and 32 percent of girls know that condoms are effective in preventing HIV transmission.
  • “Women’s empowerment helps raise economic productivity and reduce infant mortality.  It increases the chances of education for the next generation.”  – United Nations Development Programme
  • Only 8% of girls in Kibera ever have the chance to go to school.
  • Educating a girl in places like Kibera means she will earn more, invest 90% of her earnings in her family, be 3 times less likely to become HIV positive, and have fewer, healthier children more likely to live past age 5.


Amnesty International made an incredible video that depicts life for women in Kibera (www.amnesty.org):

July 21, 2013

Embodied Living: Outreach at Mama Fatuma Orphanage

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:51 pm by satsanga

Embodied Living: Outreach at Mama Fatuma Orphanage

 Africa Yoga Research Mission Blog 7/21/2013

 This morning was our sleep-in day. I was sure– and when I say “sure”–  I mean SURE that those of us who chose to go the Moroccan Bar and sit on pillows and have a glass of wine would miss breakfast and sleep in until noon- would do just that. Well, at 11:45 AM, I woke up. It seemed so light outside and as my mind evaluated the sensory input coming in, I thought perhaps it was late morning. I got to my phone and saw the time— “Oh NO!!!” I woke up Jerry and said, “Wake-up! we are going to miss lunch.” He was as disoriented as I was. We scrambled and got down stairs. Everyone else was awake and had been awake and in fact had already been to breakfast, the market, and were now back for lunch. I must say that this research team is exceptional in mind and body. I am impressed- each day- beyond my expectations. I am full of gratitude every minute of every day. This team is full of love, fun, and commitment to our mission (and it seems that there is also a strong commitment shopping at the market as well).

 After our lunch (which was once again wonderful), we met in a group and set our intention for the day. Susan read on the power of presence and awareness. Here is a small section of our reading:

 “….Use your practice of embodied living; connect with your breath, feet, and palms, whatever it may be, to keep you present, aware and dialed in…

 When we are aware of our body, there is a connection to the present moment and awareness to what is actually happening in the moment. Become aware that presence shifts perspectives and creates instant connection. Operate from a blank canvas and choose the opportunity to create powerful moments, moment-by-moment. Where your awareness goes, your energy flows.

 Awaken to your blind spots or your automatic interpretations so that you can see with new eyes and listen with new ears—more generously—to what may have limited you in the past. Dissolve barriers and move into levels of freedom, power and ease—operate in the NOW!”

 Susan reflected on what that meant to her and then Jerry as well. Hearing the thoughts of others opened all of our minds. We divided into our cars and headed out to Mama Fatuma Orphanage. I believe that we were all a little apprehensive. The members of our research team that are from the USA acknowledge that we have our challenges just like everyone else; still, seeing and learning the struggles that many citizens of Kenya face everyday has humbled all of us. We knew we were headed toward an experience that would move us deeply. We chatted in the car, fully aware of what was ahead.

 We arrived. I posted (and will post more) photos of the school and the neighborhood. The school was funded by the UK and the many of children practice the Muslim religion. Everyone was kind and open to us visiting. A young man, ready for the task, gave us a tour of the sleeping, eating, and study areas. I was quite impressed. The school was clean, bright, and most of the children had a space of their own to sleep. We walked through the school hand-in-hand with the children. I noticed that our team attached as quickly to the children as they attached to us. Presence—creates instant connection.

 We began Phase I, brainstorming, in the school/study area. The girls and boys worked hard (and sometimes not so hard) to listen. I think it is pretty exciting to have visitors and it is not necessarily fun to fill out a demographic form. Nevertheless we got through the demographic forms with Wanji and Masu interpreting everything into Swahili for us. Once we finished the demographic form we filed down to an outside area with a tarp on the ground and sat in a circle to share the children’s ideas about how yoga had affected them. They told us they were stronger, happier, and more joyful (among many other things). We then listened as the girls sang a welcome visitors song and then the boys practiced yoga to a flute and danced. To my complete happiness, we then played “Pepeta!” or “Balance the Ball.” It was so very meaningful to play a game in Africa that we had just played at Resurrection Church on the East Side of Buffalo. Presence—joyful presence. Check out Facebook because there are a bunch of awesome photos of us playing.

 After a long and sad goodbye we got back in our cars and headed for the Shine Center (see blog 1 for a description). We relaxed, face-timed home, and posted on Facebook taking full advantage of the Wi-Fi.

Then it was time for yoga. Susan and Joyce led one of my most favorite yoga classes I have ever been to in my life. There were only a few of us– some members of the research team from the US and some from Kenya. But I have noticed that it only takes a little fuel to light a big fire- and we did. Joyce started class with warm-up and Sun As and Sun Bs. We made big noise during yoga as we have learned to do this in Kenya. Turns out US yogis are too quiet and uptight in their yoga (ha-ha- but true, right?).

 Susan took her turn, then Joyce, then Susan- and we stretched and twisted, and did that darn high low plank thing again: ) and then Susan told her story about heaven and hell. I won’t tell you the story. You will have to come to Power Yoga Buffalo to hear it straight from Susan. I could never do it justice. Next, we moved into our inversions and had a handstand party. Fiannly, it was then time for savasana. Susan played, “I Believe in Everything” from the speakers of her phone. It was perfect. As we said, “Namaste” Jemo (who is not only a yoga teacher, but a dancer and photographer who teaches at the University of Nairobi) said that he loved the song and he would like to give us a gift that we cannot take home in our suitcases.

 Then, Jemo danced.

 We sat holding hands and crying. It was so beautiful and such a lovely gift. I will never forget that moment- Presence– lovely presence. We were all lost in the moment and deeply moved and crying. We all held each other- seriously- it was one big hug with all of us.

 The time for Indian food was next. We headed downstairs to the Indian restaurant. Susan ordered a real-life Indian beer and Nan thought it would be good idea to order a yogurt drink of some kind and a beer. I was worried for her- but she seemed good after dinner : ). We had a wild variety of dishes from spice to more spicy. We all wished we had ordered beers : )

 We are now back at Gracia Gardens. Tomorrow starts at 7:30 AM with yoga and then two outreaches.

 Today I am thankful for all of the people back in Buffalo, Rochester and Boston and their generosity. None of these moments- Mama Fatuma and Jemo’s beautiful dance would ever have happened without you. You are on our minds every day. I also want to thank my Dad and Mom and Jerry’s Mom for their big donations. I love you guys.

 I am also thankful for Presence in my life today, beautiful, embodied presence.




July 20, 2013

Shine Center DAY!

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:16 pm by satsanga

Shine Center DAY!!!

 7/20/2013 Africa Yoga Project Research Mission

 Another beautiful day in Nairobi, Kenya. We started with breakfast at 8:30 AM. Today we got to sleep in a little because we were meeting the AYP community at the Shine Center (see blog one) and taking a community class. The class was taught by Irene and a Baptiste teacher from Toronto. It was a bit hectic getting us all rallied and into the car and ALL the materials we needed for the day. You see, after the class we were doing Phase II with the AYP teachers and Phase I with the yoga students who attend class at the Shine Center on Community Class Day. This means- a lot of materials.

 We packed the cars and the drivers took us to the Shine Center for class. We arrived and found our spots among the over 150 other yogis there to take the class. The whole AYP team was present and ready to go. This included Paige, Billy, and Penzi (i.e., super adorable baby). The reading for the class came from Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart. It was read by no other than our own Nan! The reading was about life being like a roller coaster and that we all have this choice to either cling in fear and react or hold up our hands and laugh and scream and feel what we feel—I know that is what I heard. It was perfect for our trip and how we were feeling this morning. There were participants who stood up and generated their feelings about the reading and we all began class inspired.

 Maybe it was the jet lag or maybe the class was hard—but the class was hard :)! We worked on half planks and 100 bicycles, and boat poses, and leg drops and lifts and lots more—all with fire in our bellies and passion in our hearts. After class there were announcements and sharing. Paige spoke to her gratitude and appreciation for the community. The teachers asked anyone for whom this was a first-time Shine Center practice to stand up, introduce themselves, and share. Several people stood up and shared; it was so fun to hear what they had to say about practicing with AYP.

 Then Nan stood up and talked about our research project and to thank Musa for the amazing assist all class (at the shine center you can have a private assistant for the whole class). She asked the members of the research team to stand up and introduce ourselves and share. We created interest in our study and asked the students to stay after lunch and be a part our study. The last person to stand was Susan. She shared her excitement about being Africa and being at the Shine Center. It was then that Paige acknowledged Susan in front of the 150 or more students in the room. She thanked Susan for being the first person to support a teacher from AYP to go to training (i.e. Moses). She thanked Susan for all of her support over the years and for being as wonderful as we all know she is. It was so moving to hear this and see a leader in our community acknowledged as a leader in this international program.

 After class, we ate lunch and began to prepare for the Phase I for the students and Phase II for the AYP Teachers. You may recall that in Phase II the participants sort all of the items that were generated from the discussion (i.e., 93) into piles that are meaningful to them. Then, they rate the items in terms of importance- or how important that the particular items are to the them. This is easily an hour-long process. As we opened the suitcases we realized that the packets for Phase II were in one of our rooms and not in the suitcases we had with us. In a split second, Susan and Steve grabbed a driver and headed back to Gracia Gardens to pick up the materials. Nairobi traffic is nothing short of astonishing and obstacle creating. It took them almost an hour to get to our hotel and then only about 20 minutes to get back. The teachers were soooo patient waiting for these materials to be delivered and still completed the Phase II process with smiles. It was wonderful.

 While this was happening, half of the team was in the main room working on Phase I with the students. The beauty of this research is that it is beautiful. The words expressed by the students were inspiring, heart-felt, and full of truth. After we finished, two students came up to our team members and said they wanted to express how meaningful they found the process to be to them and that they were inspired by the words of the other yoga students.

 Once we wrapped up our work, it was time to go to the market and then out to dinner. The market was lively and overwhelming. There was blanket after blanket filled with crafts and artwork. The market was filled potential customers and very aggressive sales people and what were called “brokers.” We were accompanied by our research assistants from AYP Kenya– thank goodness. Joyce, Wanji, Musa, Jemo, Louise, and Irene were fearless and bargained well. I don’t know how people figure the market out without help and support from people that know what they are doing. I bought Chloe’s baby elephant (we got Maya one too) and the cutest pair of flip-flops. I will post photos on Facebook as soon as I can get Internet access on my phone (the Wi-Fi is not stable here).

 The dinner was at- believe it or not- the most amazing Italian restaurant right by Gracia Gardens. The research team (Kenya and US) shared a meal with Rob from the UK (Carla’s Level 3 roommates brother who was in town and topped at the Shine Center to take a class). Carla joined us later because she and Jemo went to go see Jemo’s students dance (which Carla said was beautiful). Dinner was so fun. Lots of laughs and learning. A few of the team members are still there as a write : )

 I end the day with my thanks. I give thanks to the AYP Research Assistants, the AYP teachers who were so very patient today, and to the research team. Tomorrow Phase I for the students continues. And the good news is that it is our sleep in day.




July 19, 2013

The First Day at the Outreach

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:21 pm by satsanga

Outeach Day

Blog- Africa Yoga Project research Mission- 7/19/2013

 Today was truly wonderful, magical, filled with generosity, and flexible-on-mission research team members. We started with a yoga class taught by the amazing Susan Fain at Gracia Gardens. She read the Grasshopper Poem and got us all thinking about what we are going to do with our one precious life. It felt so good to take a class with Susan. It felt like home and this morning my body needed that.

 We quickly ate breakfast and met in front of of the vehicles. Here in Nairobi we have hired drivers. The AYP staff has set all of this up for us (Thank YOU Angie Wilkins!). James owns the company and he helps arrange for us to get from Gracia Gardens to the Shine Center and today he got us to four of the out reaches.

 Because of the printing complications yesterday, we had 70 sets of sorting cards that needed to be cut for the AYP teachers to complete. Susan Fain and Brooke Easton stayed back from the morning outreach so that they could do the cutting of the sorting cards. They were wonderful and HUGE team players. In fact, the completed the task perfectly (including catching and fixing a type-o). They met us in time for lunch.

 The first out reach was at the Pumwani Social Hall. This social hall is in the city of Nairobi, which I have come to learn is a big city. Fire, an AYP teacher, taught the class. It was great! There were many young men, lots of beautiful children, and a few young women taking the classes at Pumwani. After class we divided up into groups and completed the brainstorming session with the yoga students. The AYP teachers that were there helped us and explained things in Swahili when needed. Jerry got teased by the young Nairobi boys for his shorts and thick legs : ). I can’t wait to tell my daughters that their father is getting feedback on his shorts on other continents.

 We got in the car and headed over to lunch at Sophia (Wanji’s Sister and AYP teacher) and Joyce’s homes for homemade cooking. These two women opened their homes to the research team and provided delicious traditional meals made with warmth and love. After being completely nourished, the teams met at the outreach right by their homes. I think it is called Kariobangi social hall. Here we had another great class- see photos on Facebook. The team split into two groups. One group stayed and completed brainstorming right after class and then went to the Giovana School for the Deaf. The other group went to the Rehema outreach n the slum area. I will be posting lots of photos on Facebook- please check. It was beautiful and so very inspiring. Jerry, my husband, said that he learned that you choose joy. The children we met were full of joy, songs, and smiles that showed an inner light that most certainly was not about having material wealth. We saw first hand that you can have nothing much at all in terms of material wealth and have great joy.  The children told us about how yoga took away pain, made them feel great, helped them forget their worries and bad things that had happened, and brought health to them. They told us that yoga was fun and changed their lives. In Rehema the children broke into song and we danced, and clapped, and had a wonderful time.

 The day closed with all of us meeting in the Hibiscus Room at Gracia Gardens for the AYP Research assistant to complete their sorting and rating. They will be helping us tomorrow when we go to the Shine Center and work with all of the AYP teachers.


I want to acknowledge my team: Carla, Susan, Jessalyn, Nan, Steve, Brooke, Jerry, Irene, Wanji, Jemo, Musa, Joyce, and Louise. There is NO WAY that we could do this without the translation, and signing, and Love, and support of the AYP Research Assistants. I am so thankful for working with them and know them. We are learning so much.

 I also want to thank the Buffalo, Rochester, and Boston areas for all of the financial support, emotional support, and donations you have sent to make this trip possible. Last, our families chipped in a lot too! Thank YOU!

 LOVE LOVE LOVE and Namaste


We Made It!! Some research nailbiting ends wtih happy faces

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:31 pm by satsanga

Blog Research Mission 7/18/2013

I started the day with an amazing cup of coffee and a meeting. Angie Wilkins and Irene and I got the schedule for al of the outreaches pretty close to finalized.

The day for the team started with yoga with Jemo teaching an awesome class. Jemo ended our class with this classic quote:

 “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

 We broke for a wonderful breakfast of made-to-order omelets and then got right to work. The job ahead was to be long and required much commitment. We took all of the data from the days of brainstorming with the AYP teachers and distilled them all into 93 items. The photos will be posted on Facebook once I get a good Internet connection. The team met in three groups sand consolidated items. We then met all together and created a list of 93 times. This process was arduous and the team stayed present the entire time. Jessalyn, Carla and I stayed to create the documents. Things did not go smoothly. There was trouble with the software and then the Internet. The copy store in Nairobi agreed to stay open late to make our copies. Our deadline was 6:00 PM and we got 2 of the three documents that needed to be copied to them by 6:05 PM and the last one just before 6:30 PM. It was touch and go. We ate dinner (some fun photos of Susan in Skants [a skirt that is pants that you can wear to yoga- hahaha- true story]) and talks out the day.

 Then we waited… Irene went to he copy story to get the documents in waited—– 8:00 PM, 9:00 PM, 10:00 PM… finally we received word that she was on her way. By 10:30ish- she was here with all we needed to make it through the day tomorrow! There are beautiful photos of her arriving with the document. See the facebook posts.

 Research is so incredibly fun. Susan, Musa, Carla, Jesslayn, Jerry and I waited for Irene watch the door each time it opened. Finally- it opened and there she was- a bundle of our copies all ready to go! It felt like Christmas!

 Tomorrow off to out reach to brain and sorting and rating with the AYP teachers!

 Miss you all- thank you see much for allowing this to happen with your support!!



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