Founder Focus: Souljourn Yoga Foundation
Committing yourself to ‘selfless service’ is not something that any of our previous Founder Focus’ have touched upon, up until now. Inspired by the Sanskrit word, seva, the Souljourn Yoga Foundation is a non-profit organisation committed to raising funds and awareness for girls education through global retreats and workshops.
In the past year alone, the Souljourn Yoga Foundation has hosted retreats in Nicaragua, Peru, Cambodia, and Morocco and in each country, built a bridge between those donating and those receiving the donation through yoga and art projects.
We chatted to Founder, Jordan Ashley, about what 2019 has in store…
WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT?
I returned back to New York after living abroad and went to a yoga class where I had an a-ha moment when I realized how everyone was completely isolated by the perimeter of their mats. These women would show up week after week to the same class at the same time and go through an experience of breath, movement, and in many ways healing together. Why couldn’t we leave our mats and go to places where the luxury of yoga doesn’t exist?
Education is the gateway for equalizing the playing field so why can’t this same tribe of women travel, connect, and support girl’s education initiatives on the ground whom I had worked with firsthand to create a global sisterhood?
WHAT WAS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?
Souljourn Yoga Foundation is a nonprofit inspired by seva, the Sanskrit word and yogic principle of “selfless service”.
We raise awareness and funds for girls education in developing countries by teaming up with both local and international non-profits. We create opportunities to explore, practice, and educate through yoga both on and off the mat by offering a spectrum of workshops and global retreats which continually promote female empowerment and education in communities where equal opportunities aren’t readily available. Our mantra is, “Give back to yourself while giving to others.”
HOW DID YOU KNOW IT WAS GOING TO BE A SUCCESS?
We decided to launch our first service-based retreat to Peru in the summer of 2016. Peru is a destination so magical and life-altering for those who visit it as a tourist, however, it desperately needs on-the-ground support to provide educational opportunities for the local girls in the Sacred Valley. It was the perfect place, sister Organisation, and time of year (over Memorial Day Weekend) to run our very first adventure and the response was extraordinary.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE THINKING OF STARTING A BUSINESS?
Whatever journey you chose to embark on, it has to be something you love… so even on days when it feels like it’s you against the world, you can remember that your heart is truly in it and your passion is what keeps you going.
DID YOU HAVE A MENTOR?
As cheesy as it sounds, my mom is my mentor as she has her own animal rescue foundation that has found homes for over 2500 dogs since 2009. She is a great resource and I have learned a great deal from her on what it takes to live a life based on service.
WHAT IS THE BOOK YOU WOULD RECOMMEND EVERYONE READS?
The White Album, by Joan Didion is essential for anyone wants to go deep.
Didion’s book is comprised of essays about California between the 1960’s and 70’s as she covers a variety of topics from culture (being privy to a recording session with The Doors to interviewing members of the Manson Family) to sojourns (from the glamour of Hollywood to road trips across the sprawling state).
She was so influential as a female journalist. So much travel writing, especially mid-20th century, is through the lens of the male gaze. Her writing is incredibly intimate, as she chooses to provide a micro versus macro viewpoint. I first read this book in college and was absolutely captivated by how she used personal stories and interviews (such as the discussion with Georgia O’Keefe) to color the diverse landscape of my home state, California.
WHAT ONE FAILURE ARE YOU GLAD YOU EXPERIENCED?
Not getting into my first-choice universities ended up being the best possible decision; I landed at a college that was tailor-made for me. It was supportive of all of my journalistic and creative endeavors, from independent study to studying abroad in Cambodia, which forever changed my life and planted the seed for the Souljourn Yoga Foundation.
WHAT COMMON INDUSTRY ADVICE DO YOU DISAGREE WITH?
‘Give up, there are too many yoga businesses’, ‘someone else does something just like that’, ‘where are you going to get money?’ and ‘isn’t that a dangerous part of the world to visit?’ are all remarks I have received. There is no giving up though there is only getting better.
My mission is to use yoga for social activism, supporting the lives of women around the world.
WHAT’S YOUR PLAN B?
Go to law school and become a human rights attorney. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about.