Writing about my experience and insights of my yoga practice is like writing a about how important is air to breathe.
Let me first introduce me so you know a little bit more about who’s the person behind these words. I’m Santiago Maria Del Giudice, 27 years old born and raised in Argentina, South America. I studied Social Communications and Advertising but after working at an Ads Agency for around 2 years I realized that I would not find the true meaning of life wasting my time in front of a computer working on how to make others make money. I had the feeling that something was missing. Like when Siddhartha Gautama felt that spending his days surrounded by noblemen of the Brahmin caste in beautiful palaces was not the way to achieve a complete life and finally decided to join the Samanas. I didn’t join the Samanas. Instead, I decided to travel to Kenya, East Africa.
Although the main purpose of my travel was to re examine many things about my life, reconnect with my deepest self and explore new places, I felt that I also wanted to put my energy, my time, and my life at service of others. For this reason I decided to join AIESEC, the largest student NGO, which facilitates volunteership programs all around the world http://aiesec.org/.
So I decided to apply for a volunteership at Kangundo DEB Primary and Visually Impaired School in Kenya’s rural area. And that experience basically changed my life.
Far from any big city and in the middle of Kenya’s beautiful countryside surrounded by magical mountains, coffee and tea plantations and avocado and mango trees is located this amazing public school for kids with and without disabilities (better known as integrated school). Where pupils are all treated equally in spite of their differences, where there is very limited water and electricity but kids are still happy. That’s when I started asking myself why is it that adults create mental barriers regarding the capabilities of disabled people? Why is it that we complain if we don’t have energy or water for 10 minutes? And of course many other questions…
My volunteership was supposed to last for about 4 months but I extended and stayed for about a year. I fundraised enough money to re build the school’s toilets, install solar water pumps in order to have water and sponsored more than 20 needy kids which I’m still assisting with the help of family and friends in Argentina.
I moved to Nairobi (Kenya’s capital city) to attend a Post Graduate Program in Social Innovation Management. When the program finished I started my own social innovation project with blind youth and percussion: Drums in the Dark. Now they are registered in the Ministry of Kenyan Culture and are rocking it in Kenya’s music industry. http://drumsinthedarkenya.wixsite.com/drumsinthedark (I will expand more about this project in my next Blog Post, so stay tuned!)
While living in Nairobi, I was very well connected to people from the Social Sector and I was introduced to Africa Yoga Project (AYP) an NGO that educates, empowers and elevates marginalized youth in Africa through the power of yoga http://www.africayogaproject.org/ They also provide free/ by donation community classes with more than 100 people and that’s when I discovered this magical world.
AYP is a Baptiste Affiliate Partner and they primarily offer Baptiste Power Vinyasa taught by teachers trained in Baptiste Yoga. They also offer a 200-hour yoga teacher training which I had the chance to attend and earn my certificate of completion under the requirements of the Baptiste Institute’s Live Your Yoga in Nairobi, Kenya 2015 registered by the Yoga Alliance. (attached). Since the last day of the teacher training till now, I can count with my hand’s fingers the days that I did not practice. That’s why in the first sentence of my essay I said that for my yoga is as important as air for breathe. It’s part of me and I can not imagine my life without it.
I want to highlight the fact that I just paid a little portion of the total fee because and agreed with the Founder and CEO to volunteer on guiding and leading the Speacial Needs Team. A group of local teachers that provide free yoga outreach classes to kids with disabilities in slums.
That’s when I realized that yoga transcends any physical condition, sex, religion, and so on. So I decided I wanted to start teaching yoga to blind and autistics kids in slums and in the school that I mentioned at the beginning.
When I returned to Argentina I started teaching Baptiste Power Vinyasa in two different studios and also private classes. People were just crazy about the fact that my practice was both challenging and relieving, and guys could not understand how much they were sweating during a yoga class. It’s hard to find a Certified Baptiste Yoga Teacher in Argentina, if I’m not the only one.
My daily practice consists on a 90 min. Baptiste Power Vinyasa recorded live class which I download for free from different Podcasts in iTunes Store. It’s good because I already know the alignment and the different asanas, but I feel that I want to be part of a yoga community with real people instead of just listening a Podcast. Also I strongly believe that my practice could improve a lot if I have a teacher making adjustments, challenging me and taking my practice to the next level.
I’ve been looking for different studio options in DC area to sign up for unlimited classes per month but the fees are way much that what I can afford considering my stipend. I’ve also signed up for Yoga District news about volunteer opportunities, not just to access to unlimited yoga classes per month but also to be part of the community and give back.
I could keep on doing my daily yoga practice locked up in my room without spending money, but I feel that DC is a great place to share my practice, from others and aim for something bigger than myself.
Now, I have been accepted as Yoga Activist at Yoga District, a really good studio in DC and happily enjoying unlimited classes 🙂