Karuna Yoga Journeys Article by Payal Gori & Leyla Meredith Images by Karuna Yoga Journeys
Karuna Yoga Journeys is an innovative company that was founded in 2016 by Payal Gori and Leyla Meredith. It includes a yoga studio, yoga travels and wellness based education in East Africa, and is fast expanding to West Africa, Europe and India.
KYJ grew from a casual cup of chai and light-hearted conversation which identified an overwhelming need for a loving, supportive community and a space to create, acknowledge, become mindful, heal, experience, dream, travel and get healthy; especially in East Africa.
Working out has always been a social activity. The fast-growing cities in Kenya and Uganda are buzzing with different work out options to match the lifestyle of young entrepreneurs; Dance, Zumba, MMA, and a variety of Gyms, there is so much on offer. Payal and Leyla, alongside many others, have noticed that people are looking for something a little extra though! They want to travel mindfully, live fully, love deeply. They want a workout and a work in, something that further develops their physical, mental and spiritual health.
As times are changing, our co-founder Leyla never thought she would be in her mid-40s wearing more Lycra and leggings than cute tops and cutoffs, and her partner Payal has observed wellness spaces are becoming the preferred places of choice for professional millennial women. (The social spaces where we gather when we’re not at work or at home). So they merged their passion, knowledge, experience, yoga studios and travel companies together and established Karuna Yoga Journeys.
Leyla says “the fast-paced, goal driven, materialistic consumer of the last decade is gently giving way to a community-driven, openhearted conscious individual. Less and less people are turning to alcohol and shopping malls for entertainment, and are alternatively searching for a different way to socialize and connect. As awareness around health and wellbeing expands, people are seeking like-minded friends to meet in the yoga or wellness space and it’s starting to change the way we interact. When choosing where to stay in a foreign city I first research yoga centres knowing there I will connect to like-minded souls who stop for an avocado smoothie after practice, have a little more time for one another and are willing to go out of their way to be kind and helpful even in this time poor era. There I can find out when the farmers market is on, information about small businesses I may want to support and where to get the best almond milk cappuccino.”
Could Wellness spaces fill that gap?
Payal believes it undoubtedly can. She says “it’s almost urgent that we encourage this shift that moves from mindless consumption to mindful connections. Making this shift depends on two very important things. The first one being the availability of options that make this transition easier. For example; the availability of well-planned retreats as travel options that focus on sustainable living and ethical business practices. Easier access to vegan alternatives, plastic-less packaging, promotion of local brands and, moreover, conversations around sustainability, community and mental health is vital. The second important factor is that every person needs to realise that their choices and actions matter, they are responsible for any radical shift they wish to happen in the world.
Karuna Yoga Journeys is truly embracing this possibility. Karuna recently hosted a week of asana, meditation, Ted X talks, insightful conversation, meditation and workshops in Kampala. The program was designed to optimise everyone’s time, not to compromise the conventional working week, and to be financially accessible.
The week brought together a wonderful mix of intellects and artists, children and adults from all corners of the world. It supported local fair trade businesses, offered a heart opening cacao ceremony, had kombucha on offer and ended with a delicious lunch at Vitamin in Centenary Park. You could spot those that had attended the week by the glowing faces and the natural highs. This is a community believing in abundance, the law of attraction, supporting and uplifting others, rather than being held down by the old belief system of hanging on, lack and fear. It was a chance to physically work out and emotionally and mentally work in, an opportunity to connect and disconnect and share some magic with friends old and new.
Based wherever in the world life takes them but proudly claiming Uganda as home, Karuna Yoga Journeys offers enriching retreats, various Yoga Teacher Trainings, yoga and self-development workshops, team building programs and curated travel experiences in the African continent and further afield. They mentor local Ugandan yoga teachers, offer advice on building wellness-related businesses, help organize outreach yoga in marginalized communities, prisons and offer scholarships on their trainings believing the benefits of yoga and a mindful life should be available to everyone.
Believing transformation happens outside the comfort zone, you can often find Leyla or Payal immersing themselves in further education, researching a fascinating community or studying train timetables and Eco Lodges so they can create unique journeys outside and within, which make a positive contribution to society at the same time.