Since it can be difficult to understand Margaret Njeri at times, the text of the interview is below for you to follow along.
Emily Fleming '12: Hi. I’ve just finished the first week of my internship with Africa Yoga Project. One of the things I’m working on is creating profiles of all of AYP’s teachers. These profiles include basic information about the teachers, as well as questions about yoga’s effects on their lives. All of this information will be put on the Africa Yoga Project website, as part of AYP’s new mentorship program. This program places teachers with individuals and organizations internationally, so they can jump-start their careers and earn a better living through teaching yoga. The first teacher we interviewed was Margaret Njeri, a twenty-year old from the Nairobi slums. Margaret is wise beyond her years, and it’s amazing to think that only a few years ago she was stealing in the slums.
Margaret Njeri: Me, I was stealing, and I stop it because I’m doing yoga. Like, you know, if it’s not this yoga, I should continue stealing in the slums. Because yoga is keeping me busy, I don’t have that time feeling like I need to go back in my background, like I want to steal again. No, no, no. To steal is really bad. You know, those money I’m stealing for this one will not help me in my life because I’ll just go and use them and it’s gone. But, you see, the time I’m doing yoga I’m giving, I’m receiving.
EF: Margaret teaches about five classes a week, and some of her students are young children. While children are often energetic and full of life, their exuberance makes them a challenge to teach. Margaret explained to me that while teaching the kids is her biggest challenge in yoga, she’s developed a method of getting them into a yogic way of thinking and acting.
MN: I usually tell them, when you enter in the class you shall [be] quiet. Don’t talk with anyone because even these kids, maybe they shall fight. I tell them, don’t fight, don’t hate your neighbor. No, I say, don’t do that. Yoga, it will help you open up your mind, I want you guys to pass your exam. I saw you, like you’re number one, yeah, you know, I’ll be happy. I shall them to be good, to be good in their mothers, be good, and you’ll see what’s happening in your life.
EF: In October 2010, Margaret got the opportunity to travel to Mexico to attend a week long level one teacher training program with Baron Baptiste, the founder of Baptiste Power Yoga, thanks to her mentorship organization, Power Yoga Canada, who raised the funds for her to go. In only one week, Margaret learned a lot about herself, and conquered many of her fears.
MN: I really got a big challenge in Mexico because those people were white, I was the only black. The time I do meditation, Baron said, what would you like to give up? I just raise up my hand. I say, right now, I’m giving up this fear.
EF: Margaret is the first to admit that yoga has transformed her life for the better. She’s now a strong, confident woman eager to change the world through yoga.
MN: I’ve learned to be authentic, to change my life, to be a good girl. Like now even I can stand in front of people, I’m not shy anymore. I’ve learned to be honest, to be truth. If you be truth, oh my god, you’ll really make it. I’m really strong and I’ll continue [to] grow stronger and stronger. I’ll continue changing people’s lives and they’ll see, they’ll hear, Margaret is in another place, is going to do yoga. I didn’t know I could be the one of Africa Yoga Project. Right now you can see, I’m the one, and I’m really shining.
EF: For more information on Africa Yoga Project and the mentorship program, visit africayogaproject.org. Thanks for listening and don’t forget to tune in again next week. For insideColby, I’m Emily Fleming.
Photo Credit: Todd Beer--used with permission.