Change Maker Spotlight: Jordan Ashley

by Yoga Digest | September 22, 2019 1:55 am

Jordan recently started an On The Ground teacher training program, designed to benefit teen mothers in undeveloped countries. She recently completed her first program in Rwanda in partnership with their   their partner non-profit.   The results: Jordan trained 9 members of the staff and facilitators from Komera who are now able to teach their teen mom population and primary school students yoga and mindfulness, without having to rely on volunteers to come in and lead classes.

Yoga Digest: Can you tell us a bit more about , and what led you to create an on-the-ground teacher training program?  

Jordan Ashley: As much as our annual retreats are an imperative and crucial part of Souljourn Yoga’s foundation, I wanted to create a way to make a deeper impact. Hence, we launched our very first “On the Ground” Yoga Teacher Training Immersion in 2019. By training 9 members of the staff and facilitators from Komera, our partner organization in Rwanda, they are then able to teach their teen mom population and primary school students yoga and mindfulness without having to rely on Western volunteers to come in and lead classes.

YD:   You just finished your first training in Rwanda in partnership with members of Komera’s team who are mentors and facilitators for teen moms, and use sport for self-empowerment for primary school students. Can you tell us a bit more about this experience?

Jordan: It was the most humbling experience of my life. Hands down. The women who were between the ages of 24-37 were all extremely sharp, creative, dedicated and open to having a new experience. Some of the women were more familiar with yoga and others were quite new, but none of that really mattered as the level of adaptability and confidence was absolutely mind-blowing. From breaking down the training from Body (physical yoga), Mind (meditation and breathing techniques) and Heart (affirmations, philosophy, and journaling), we were able to approach the yoga practice as more of an integrative lifestyle activity.

YD:   What are the long-term benefits you hope to see leading these programs in lesser economically developed countries?

Jordan: I believe that there is no reason why local women shouldn’t be at the forefront of the wellness industry in the countries that they reside in. I would love for them to have careers as yoga teachers at studios, hotels, or even donation classes within their communities just by adding a new skill set to their repertoire that can open up infinite possibilities. Also, it multiples; so someone teaching a group of friends grows into the fitness teaching other friends and before you know it, everyone is integrating practices of yoga to make it approachable and applicable for themselves.

YD: As mentioned earlier, for some of these women, this is the first time they are hearing about, and even practicing yoga, can you tell us more about their reactions?  

Jordan: Everyone was really excited to be able to connect through movement in a new way and were extremely open-minded to learn about the physical yoga practice such as the shapes and sequencing, but also meditations, breathing techniques. They also participated in a series of self-care workshops such as journaling, writing, and art, not only for themselves but for their communities at large.

YD: What’s was the best takeaway from this experience?  

Jordan: That yoga really does create a union. It didn’t matter that there were language barriers as it was beyond incredible to watch the women teach in Kinyarwanda and bare witness to the mind, body, and breath connection when one person stepped into the role of teacher and guided the rest through their own truest self-expression of what they connected and resonated with. You can teach and show all of the poses, but at the end of the day, it’s how someone interprets it and makes it her own that truly made this experience empowering.

YD:   With one program down, can you tell us what’s next?  

Jordan: We will be returning to Rwanda in February 2020 to continue on what we’ve built by adding new shapes, partner yoga, and other activities that will assist the teachers to engage with their students in creative ways. Many of the women and girls who we support and work with endured a myriad of life experiences so it is imperative for Souljourn Yoga to keep running these empowering teacher training in post-conflict areas such as Rwanda, Cambodia, and Kosovo, leaving these women not only with new skill sets for themselves, but with the potential for a new source of income, career path, and means of familial support.

YD:   What advice would you give women who want to get involved in their own communities?  

Jordan: Start with something that you are passionate about and find a feasible way to bring that inspiration to tangibility by sharing it with others. This could be an art class, knitting circle, or writing workshop in which you are making an offering purely out of the kindness of wanting to give and share.

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