Jordan Ashley, founder of Souljourn Yoga, is not interested in hosting a yoga retreat in a third world country to take advantage of the natural beauty of a region and then leave without having an impact. She believes that change happens when we ‘leave the palace gates,’ as Siddhartha (young Buddha) did when he disobeyed his father and went to witness the human condition. Jordan knows, from her own experience, that the change we seek starts with hopping over our own “palace walls,” whatever they may be.
For Jordan, her own realization process came as the result of studying abroad in Cambodia and consequently working there as a young woman. On her study abroad trip, she was playing with children while visiting an orphanage, when she realized how deeply the privilege she was born with affected her, and how we are not born into an even playing field.
After college, where she majored in journalism, Jordan went back to Cambodia to cover NGOs for the Phnom Penh Post. In this position, she was able to get the inside scoop on how NGOs operate. Jordan felt like it was her obligation, in this lifetime, to ensure that the girls within her scope of influence received some of the same benefits as she had.
That made her next step combining her love of service with an intimate knowledge of what makes a charitable organization work, Jordan created Souljourn Yoga.
How Souljourn Yoga is Helping Girls Around the World
One of the main issues Jordan wants to bring to light with Souljourn Yoga is girls’ education. It has been found that educating girls can save lives and reduce poverty. If you give a girl the opportunity for secondary education (an opportunity that many girls around the world do not have), she makes better life decisions. She is able to support her family with better work options. Souljourn Yoga partners with organizations in various locations around the world to bring the gift of education to more girls.
The latest organization that Souljourn has partnered with is the Tongole Foundation, a UK registered charity that aids families in Malawi. They specifically work to educate local women, in order to empower them and help to support women working in schools. By encouraging more girls to continue their secondary education, Souljourn and the Tonole Foundation hope to lead to more female teachers and create a sustainable revenue for women of the communities.
Souljourn is partnering with Willow & Blair and the Tongole Foundation to provide a 9-day yoga retreat in Malawi, the heart of Africa, that will include activities, daily yoga, and all meals, plus the opportunity to interact with and learn more about the local community. Part of the cost of the retreat is a tax-deductible donation that will go directly to the Female Empowerment Project.
Another of these organizations is the Girls Home in Granada, Nicaragua. The Girls Home supports and houses girls who have been deemed “social orphans” due to distinctive circumstances and provides education, shelter, and care. When the girls reach the age of 18, there are grants available for them to attend University. When you go on the Souljoun yoga retreat to Nicaragua, you are able to spend time with the girls; working on a collaborative jewelry beading project and practicing playful yoga with them.
Ponheary Ly Foundation Girls’ Dormitory, which houses, feeds and shelters 60 of the brightest and academically ambitious female students who are from districts in Siem Reap where no secondary education is provided is yet another organization that Souljourn Retreats has partnered with. In a post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, education is cherished. Whereas those of us in more developed countries take for granted that we will have the opportunity to go to school, people in Cambodia have no such guarantee. On your Souljourn yoga retreat to Siam Reap you are able to teach these girls, play with them, and hear all about their stories.
How Yoga Plays a Part
The yoga portion of Souljourn Yoga isn’t just about the classes you take on your retreat (though those classes will be life-changing). It’s related to everything about your journey, from the service (seva) based mission to actually practicing yoga with the girls you meet.
Jordan believes in the power of yoga to heal girls all around the world. Many of the girls and young women that these organizations benefit have had a traumatic past. Jordan wants to teach them yogic philosophy as a way to self soothe. She wants to make the 8 limbs of yoga tangible and accessible so these girls can rely on their principles in times of trouble. Things like tapping into the breath when they feel stressed, or learning about Satya (truth) and Ahimsa (non-violence).
How You Can Get Involved With Souljourn Yoga
When you go on a Souljourn Yoga retreat, you not only give much needed resources to help the girls in these communities, you also form a meaningful relationship with them. Souljourn Yoga works at multiple levels: the girls concrete needs are taken care of through direct donation, the girls are able to have a unique experience, and the participants are able to connect with another culture.
So who is Souljourn Yoga for?
Are you someone who knows that they want to help others who weren’t born with the same privileges as them? Do you constantly wonder what more you could be doing for girls around the world? Are you living a yogic lifestyle, or at least curious to learn more? A Souljourn Yoga retreat is definitely for you. Even if you have never traveled before, you are in extremely capable hands with Jordan and her collaborators.
What does a Souljourn Yoga Retreat Entail?
Depending on where you travel, your schedule will look a bit different. You will be receiving daily yoga classes, to integrate everything you are learning and observing during your retreat. You will also be working with a group of girls in the community to teach them and have the opportunity to play and learn about their lives.
Souljourn yoga retreats don’t only offer the special opportunity to help girls all around the world, they are literally filled with unique activities put together especially for you by Jordan and her partners. During your days you may make meditation jewelry, visit a floating village, or receive a rejuvenating massage. During your nights you may go out on the town, take a traditional cooking class, or sleep in a teepee under the stars.
In the end, this loving care and attention to detail are exactly what makes a Souljourn Yoga Retreat stand out from the pack. Speaking with Jordan, you can feel the passion and love she has for this project. She has created experiences tailor made for adventurous, compassionate women like her who want to see and do as much for this planet as possible.
Jordan Ashley first had a taste of global Seva when she completed two study abroad programs. The first in Siam Reap, Cambodia where she taught English and women’s self-empowerment through the Ponheary Ly Foundation. The other in Dharamsala, India where Jordan lived with a Tibetan family and studied the community in diaspora.
Between completing her 200 and 300-hour yoga teacher training at ISHTA Yoga and YogaMaya New York, Jordan uprooted to Southeast Asia where she was a reporter for the Phnom Penh Post, focusing on NGO coverage as well as a lifestyle journalist in Bangkok, Thailand. Jordan has collected passport stamps in more than 30 countries including India, Nepal, Thailand, South Africa, Cambodia, and Vietnam. By teaming up with yoga teachers from around the world, Souljourn Yoga is dedicated to raising global compassion and peace.