Name: Jordan Ashley
Job title: Founder and Executive Director of the Souljourn Yoga Foundation
Time in current role: 4 years
Jordan is the Founder of the Souljourn Yoga Foundation, a non-profit organisation that teaches yoga to women in less economically developed countries.
Why did you decide to start your charity?
I’d returned to New York after working in Southeast Asia as a journalist and went to a yoga class where I had a ‘aha’ moment when I noticed how everyone was completely isolated within the perimeter of their mats. You could go to the same class week after week and never know the name of the person next to you but that connection of being in the same space and moving as one, regardless of class, creed, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic standing is what creates community.
Having travelled the world I’ve met many people including women and children who’ve not had the same luck in life to even have their basic needs met let alone learn about yoga. Because of this I wanted to fuse yoga, travel and women’s empowerment to create a multifaceted platform that could take the physical practice of yoga out of the studio to places where access to education isn’t always a given.
Creating a work environment where learning is at the forefront begins with you
What are the key functions of your role?
Souljourn Yoga is basically a one woman show in that I do everything from our social media to partnership development. As founder and executive director the entire charity rests on my shoulders so I need to make sure it’s constantly evolving and garnering support from new sources.
Talk us through your typical working day
Every day is a little different. I usually hole up at a neighbourhood coffee shop and respond to emails as well as work on project and retreat development. I’ll usually break for lunch and go to either a yoga or pilates class with a friend and then return to work for conference calls or physical meetings. A dog walk or two is also essential to get my creative juices flowing!
Your favourite part of the job?
Our retreats. They fund girls’ education on the ground which is imperative to the planet. By including a $300-$500 tax-deductible donation in the tuition we’ve been able to help fund new dormitories, scholarships, books, uniforms and sanitary products for women in need.
I love how travel forces you to adapt, evolve and experience new ways of life. To me it’s been the best education and continues to teach me humility, gratitude, and compassion. It’s all about human connection and the ability to create relationships, friendships and long-lasting bonds with people you wouldn’t come across had you not decided to get on that flight.
It’s imperative that we keep running training programmes in post-conflict areas so that women learn new skill sets that can create new sources of income
…and the part you could do without?
Also I can often feel like there’s too much on my plate. It’s those moments when I remember the incredible teachers who volunteer with us and support our team – from our graphic designer to videographer – and then I don’t feel so alone.
How would the people you work with describe you in three words?
Patient, dedicated and empathetic.
Plans for the future?
In 2019 we launched our very first On the Ground Yoga Teacher Training Immersion. By training nine members of staff and facilitators from our partner organisation, Komera, based in Rwanda, they are then able to teach their teen mum population and primary school students yoga and mindfulness without having to rely on volunteers to come in and lead classes.
It’s imperative that we keep running these training programmes in post-conflict areas so that women learn new skills that can create a new source of income, a different career path and a means for them to support their families.
Another goal is to open small satellite studios in these locations that can be run by the women who graduate from our training programme. We’d offer teacher training scholarships so that when someone from abroad signs up to do the course this would fund another woman to take part alongside her.
I love how travel forces you to adapt, evolve and experience new ways of life
Do you have any advice for others aspiring to do what you do?
Creating a work environment where learning is at the forefront begins with you. I used to try and do everything on my own and would fake my way through situations because I felt like I looked incapable if I didn’t know something. Admitting my own ignorance in situations has been extremely empowering because it gives me the opportunity to learn from someone else. If you don’t know something just ask someone to explain it or demonstrate it to you. LLY