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This summer, I embarked on an incredible journey to Nairobi, Kenya as an ambassador for Africa Yoga Project (AYP) for a kids yoga teacher training and service work. This experience inspired my friends Kate Puncochar, Liz Vehyl, and I to launch the first annual Music City Yoga Festival to benefit Africa Yoga Project. It will be held on Saturday, October 26, 2013.

There is no better feeling in the world than creating community and finding a connection with someone from halfway across the globe. I would know.

As a very exciting bonus, we get the privilege of hosting an Africa Yoga Project teacher, Irene Auma, all the way from Kenya. I spoke with Auma about her journey from the slums of Nairobi to the US:

Auma became involved with AYP in 2007. She was in an acrobatic group with seven girls at Sarakasi Dome in Nairobi — all of which shared one studio apartment about the size of an average American bedroom. Auma met the founder of AYP, Paige Elenson, through the acrobatic group, and was immediately drawn to the idea of become trained to teach and make a living, as well as provide service for her community.

She says she gravitates to yoga, “because it is an open community for everyone in the world. People are different, but we share one love and it’s called yoga. Yoga changed my life — I now accept who I am and am able to share who I am through service in my community.”

Auma is an enthusiastic, compassionate, and openhearted person. She cannot wait to share her story with Nashville and, from there, the world! When asked how she has liked the US of A so far, she replied, “The U.S.A. is such a pretty place. Everyone is generous, ready to help, and they are big-hearted.”

Come help us live up to this standard at Music City Yoga Festival on Saturday, October 26, 2013, and give Auma a huge, warm welcome.

Written by Keenan Mclaren

Keenan McLaren is from Boston, MA where she began her ballet training at the age of 8. She trained at the Boston Ballet School for 10 years, and upon graduating from high school, secured a job as an apprentice with Ballet Austin II. After one season in Austin, Keenan then joined Dayton Ballet, where she danced for 5 seasons, performing many principal and soloist roles, as well as had many roles created on her by such choreographers as Christopher Fleming, Gregory Robinson, Steven Mills, Jeffrey Hughes, and Alan Hineline. In the fall of 2010, Keenan moved to Philadelphia to join the newly established BalletFleming, where she had the opportunity to dance many principal roles as well and set and ballet mistress many of Mr. Fleming’s works. For the upcoming season, Keenan is thrilled to be joining Nashville Ballet.
In her free time, Keenan is an avid yogi and yoga teacher, having just completed her training with Baron Baptiste. She is also a huge foodie and loves cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, especially with raw and vegan foods. Keenan also loves photography, particularly black and white film. In 2008, she won a Dance Magazine Photo contest and hopes to one day become a dance photographer.