Spiritual Heroes 2013: Q&A with Paige Elenson
Executive Director, Africa Yoga Project
Photograph by Robin O'Neill
Do you have a favorite quote, prayer, practice or credo that gives you strength or inspiration?
"When you pray, move your feet" (African proverb). While I discover vast value in sitting in meditation, my prayers are most potent to the world when they are coupled with response and action. When I sit in contemplation for too long, I tend to get caught up in the many paths I could take, I analyze, I doubt. When I am in action, when I take my prayers and make them my promise to the world; I risk, I try and I connect—with other humans, with animals and with the world. Action breeds empowerment and leadership.
What current project are you most passionate about? What motivates you to do the work you do?
My name is Paige Elenson, and I am the Executive Director of a charity I co-founded with Baron Baptiste called Africa Yoga Project. It sounds like such an important title, when really I am just a girl, now mom, who fell in love with the power and transformation of yoga and wanted to share it with the world. I remember stumbling into my first class with my teacher, Baron Baptiste. I was a teenager who wanted to attend a retreat in Mexico and had NO idea that yoga was way more than a series of poses. It was then that I realized I wanted to share this, yoga, with the world.
Africa Yoga Project was born following Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007. We use the power of yoga to support economic development and alleviation of poverty and disease by creating a local market for yoga. At AYP we train young leaders and empower them to share yoga—in fact, we have just completed our very first 200 hour training program in Nairobi, Kenya where we had over 150 participants from all over the world. Weekly we see over 6000 people; sweating, stretching and sharing this practice. I have seen many things in my short life, but the one thing that I have seen over and over is the transformative power of yoga. If I could share one message with everyone that reads this post it is that the cliche of “together we make a difference" is true. You don’t have to build a school to make a difference, you can make a difference right where your feet are NOW! Whether you are in Nairobi, Kenya or New York - we all want to be seen, we all yearn for community and we all need one another. So today, when you roll out your mat at your local studio, or perhaps wander into a studio you have never been before—introduce yourself, say hello and welcome someone into your life that hasn’t been there before. Be the spark of togetherness - let’s together create a world for one another, where we all have enough, where we all share and we all change the planet together.
What do you consider your spiritual roots?
My spiritual roots lie in Judaism. I was a Jewish history and comparative religion major in college. At some point I realized that all the worlds people and beliefs are more similar than different and yoga, the practice of coming together and acting from "we are all one" I started teaching and sharing yoga a created AYP.
Don't miss the interviews with Pema Chodron, Adyashanti, India.Airie and our other Spiritual Heroes of 2013. http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/top-ten-spiritual-heroes-2013