Yoga Aid World Challenge coming to Whistler 

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Fruv Freedomwear has been named Whistler's ambassador for the Yoga Aid World Challenge, a two-hour yoga gathering to raise money for the Africa Yoga Project.

It's a worldwide event on Sept. 9 that's expected to attract up to 20,000 people in 20 countries with the aim of raising around $1 million to go towards building yoga projects in Kenya's urban slums to encourage physical and mental health, create jobs, and encourage leadership.

Yoga Aid started in 2006, but this is Fruv's first year hosting. The event is free but donations for Africa Yoga are accepted.

Dave Halliwell, Fruv's owner, said he hoped more than 100 people would join five local yoga teachers – Tina James, Christina Tottle, Erin Anderson, Julia McCabe and Devon Sockett — at the Woodlands Terrace at Fairmont Chateau Whistler from 10 a.m. until noon.

"They are yoga instructors from a bunch of different studios around Whistler," Halliwell said.

"It's a great opportunity for people to get some amazing instruction from five great instructors and do something that can really make a difference."

Information on the Africa Yoga Project will be available at the event.

"They send instructors over to Africa to teach yoga in those communities and also to train new instructors," Halliwell said.

"It really brings the communities together and it gives people direction and something to do; in some of those communities there is nothing for people to do. It's a very positive influence."

One of those instructors, Erin Anderson, has been to Nairobi for the project and has been involved with Africa Yoga for two years. She said it's been life changing.

"It's an amazing cause. I've seen it in action and the difference it has made to the lives it has touched, in Nairobi, and the lives it has changed in terms of the instructors," she said.

Most African instructors who have been trained by the project are under the age of 25, and are paid $125 a month to teach in slum areas. Anderson said that vital income could support up to eight people.

There are 250 outreach classes per week in the Kenyan capital.

"We really focus on the dark corners, the parts of communities that are untouched or reached. There's a lot of forgotten people," she said. This includes dense slums with over a million people.

"We have 52 teachers and this is how we reach out."

When asked how the poorest of people can benefit, Anderson replies by telling two stories.

One was about a young man in his early 20s, James, who has become an enthusiastic instructor. By the age of 12, his father was dead; his mother an invalid, and he was forced to care for is younger sibling. Poverty and desperation led him to make bad choices — stealing, drug abuse and violence.

"When I met James, he had been teaching with the Africa Yoga Project for about a year, and I asked him if it had changed his life, and he said that it had saved his life," she said.

He was offered the chance to do a teacher training and become a teacher (though he) had no idea what was on the other side of that. Then he did all the rest, all the hard work."

The other story concerned a woman who took an outreach class in Mathare, a slum in which the teachers work.

"She was so beside herself excited that she could make it to the class because she had been left alone in bed for three months, people had forgotten about her," said Anderson. "She had 18-month-old twin boys. She almost died, her babies almost died. She was very sick with tuberculosis and Aids, but she was found and someone got her back on her feet."

"She dragged herself to that yoga class, knowing it was there. She was so happy and excited. The woman who taught had seen her months before and said she hadn't smiled for a very, very long time."

Anderson said yoga can directly impact people's connection to themselves and to the present.

"And for some of these people, that is really all they have. Because they are in such survival mode, they are always worried about survival, whether they will be able to provide for their children. We have no comprehension," Anderson said.

"What yoga offers is possibility, in that moment. I was moved by the immediate impact yoga had on these people."


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