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The Ultimate Triangle Pose: Connecting Yoga, Travel, and Girls’ Education with Jordan Ashley (Episode #121)

If you are wondering about your “purpose,” and you like to travel, then today’s guest will open a whole new landscape of possibilities for you. Jordan Ashley had two passions (yoga and travel) but over time, she began to feel like both were too self-involved. Then, the magic happened (travel with purpose) and she decided to connect her passions to her commitment to helping girls around the world who were being denied access to education.  We can all learn from Jordan’s story and perhaps discover what we are uniquely built to contribute.

Episode Highlights

About Our Guest:

Travel with Purpose and much more!

Our guest today, Jordan Ashley, was embracing New York City’s fast-paced yoga culture when she recognized that she needed more experiences that felt like “service to others.” 

She also realized that she probably wasn’t alone in this feeling, and she saw the opportunity for people interested in yoga to expand what good can come of their yoga practice. 

Drawing on her experience traveling around the globe as a journalist in Southeast Asia and then reporting on NGOs and charitable organizations in India, Jordan saw a connection with her life as a full-time yoga teacher. Soon after, she created Souljourn Yoga Foundation, a non-profit that raises awareness and funds for young women’s education and empowerment around the world. 

Souljourn Yoga offers a spectrum of workshops, teacher immersions, and global travel retreats,  then uses the profits to continue to promote girls’ education in communities where equal opportunities aren’t always readily available.

The yoga retreats that she has designed are not “one hit wonders” for the communities she visits with her groups. No, she envisions a long term commitment that fosters confidence and encourages other investments in the retreat locations, making the experience of the travelers better and better with every year. 

These trips are not just for people who are devoted yoga practitioners. Sure, there is yoga every day in inspiring global settings and some focus on improving peoples’ practices, but there is also a cultural immersion piece. Some aspect of the trip is devoted to helping the local girls’ organization with a project. 

Inspired by the Sanskrit word “Seva”—the yogic principle of selfless service—and the word “sojourn”—which captures the essence of being in a place for a time—Jordan arranges for collaborations between the retreat guests and local community-based projects. 

It’s a novel model for “Travel with Purpose.” 

So novel and inspiring that it has been featured in Forbes Magazine, Yoga Journal, the Los Angeles Times, New Balance, and Marie Claire UK.

Jordan describes her inspiration for creating the organization in her Tedx Talk, which I highly recommend. 

And here’s what she says about her organization’s vision and impact: 

“Currently, over 130 million young women around the world are denied an education, which also means they’re often denied the right to make fundamental and unique choices. Choices which can improve their overall wellbeing, access to opportunities and individual health and gender equities. A young woman with safe access to an education is also less likely to be endangered by violence, child marriage and premature pregnancy which are ubiquitous issues that women face universally. Education provides choices, and choices can provide liberty.

“We have successfully raised tens of thousands for young women’s education around the world. Each location selected is chosen alongside our on the ground partner, non-profit organizations. Participants each connect with the incredible young women and female leaders who compose each organization, and together we set the path to create an invaluable experience where the practice of yoga is shared from the root of the mat to a wider global practice.”

Lovely!… Who knew you could use yoga as a platform for social activism!?

Jordan Ashley is full of positive energy yet is delightfully introspective, which gives all of us a chance to just breathe and consider the possibilities in our own lives. 

I wanted to interview Jordan because I instantly recognized she has created one of those rare circular systems where everybody wins, and the process becomes self-perpetuating… part of this wave we’ve been talking about as a Conspiracy of Goodness. 

She is an activist (supporting girls’ education), a writer, yoga teacher, TEDx speaker, and PhD candidate. And you are likely to see yourself in her story!

Resources Mentioned:

Trusting Opportunity Over Fear with John Hagel (Episode #76)

When you operate with an opportunity-based narrative over a fear-based one, you can move beyond fear to instead view new things with hope and excitement. This is the message of John Hagel, a Silicon Valley management consultant, entrepreneur, speaker, and author who for 40 years has been driven by a desire to help people and organizations around the world take advantage of new possibilities in this rapidly changing world. Listen in to take a journey beyond fear and change your mindset about new situations you face.

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Show Notes

(00:00- 05:07) OPENING
(05:08- 17:34)
  • An undergrad moving to New York to start her own journey
  • Life in New York
  • India Yoga Retreat
  • Cambodia
  • Souljourn’s Cambodian partner
  • Freelancing life and teaching yoga
  • Girls’education
  • Having a sustainable impact
  • Rwanda
  • Morocco
  • Dealing with stress as a student
  • Yoga and human connection
  • Physical challenge
  • Making yoga more welcoming
(17:35- 20:39) BREAK 
(20:40- 32:17)
  • Places where education is not a given
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Donation cost included in travel cost
  • Small group tour and the idea of connection
  • Experience is unique to the place you’re visiting
  • Upcoming event with Lalala
  • Peru project
  • Bucket list destinations
(32:18- 43:34)
  • I’m the best version of myself when I’m not at my house
  • When we break our routine incredible things happen
  • We have to get all of the humanity on board to get real wave of change
  • The greater purpose behind Souljorn
  • Funding to expand
  • Travel with purpose
  • The world is scary and the world is beautiful
  • We take education for granted too often
  • Making humanity so human is through our similarities, not our differences
(43:35- 44:36) CLOSING

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