Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Jordan Ashley took her first yoga teacher training at the end of college while she was dealing with a toxic and abusive relationship. After she broke away from her partner, she stopped practicing and moved to Cambodia to be a reporter. There, she connected with women who had been in similar relationships or who hadn’t been allowed academic opportunities. Ashley recognized that her laser focus on education had given her the strength to leave her relationship, and her eyes opened to education’s power to liberate and empower women. When she came back to the United States in the spring of 2012, she returned to yoga, and the more she practiced the more comfortable in her body she became. Yoga, like education, had become a source of power. The seeds for what would become Souljourn Yoga had been planted.
In 2016, Ashley founded Souljourn Yoga to help support girls’ empowerment through education. Souljourn Yoga holds international yoga-and-service retreats that help fund local partner organizations dedicated to girls’ education. Each year Souljourn Yoga returns to the same locations, including Cambodia, Peru, and Morocco, nurturing long-term relationships with its partners, such as the Sacred Valley Project in Peru, which provides secondary education for girls who live in the Andes Mountains. “I want to spend time cultivating relationships with the incredible organizations that are really doing the work,” Ashley says. “And I want to support them more than one time.”
Built into the retreat fee is a donation to Souljourn Yoga’s local partners, and Ashley encourages retreat participants to bring commodities that the girls affiliated with its partners can use. “It takes so little energy to pack some sanitary napkins or a couple of notebooks or pens,” she says.
Foundational to Souljourn Yoga is the idea that, as Ashley puts it, “yoga is a bonding experience.” Retreat participants spend time with the girls supported by the local partners and practice with them. Recently, one of the Morocco retreat attendees, a textile designer, raised money to buy tote bags so the girls could do a natural tie-dye project. As the bags soaked in the dye, the girls all did yoga, and at the end they had a bag for their books; the girls loved it. “That’s one example of someone stepping into their strength and what they’re really passionate about and sharing it,” Ashley says.
Souljourn Yoga’s mission is expanding. In June 2019, Ashley taught the first yoga teacher immersion for nine Rwandan women who work with Komera, a partner that supports girls’ self-empowerment through sports and education. By holding the retreat and training, Souljourn is helping Komera fulfill its desire to make yoga a part of its curriculum. A few weeks after wrapping Souljourn’s teacher immersion, Ashley received a video of one of the Rwandan women leading a yoga class of 70 teen girls.
Souljourn Yoga at a Glance
- Founder: Jordan Ashley
- Website: souljournyoga.com
- $300-$500 donated per retreat attendee to partner organizations
- $40,700 raised for partner organizations
- 13 yoga-and-service retreats held
- 9 partner organizations dedicated to girls’ education
- 2 new partner organizations to be added in 2020