After a devastating natural disaster compounded an already dire situation in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, Yogis all over the country are reaching out to provide assistance. Many are in the form of donation based classes meant to raise funds and awareness, and some are utilizing more creative ways like collecting used Yoga mats with the plan of sharing yoga with the victims of this tragic occurrence.
I am always uplifted by the eagerness and willingness of yogis to jump in during times of crisis and do anything and everything to lend a hand. So many yogis are driven, not by the analytical and often cynical mind, but by the compassionate depth of their hearts. For anyone on a truly spiritual path, I believe it is hard to sit idly by and observe the suffering of others without feeling compelled to help.
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So, yogis are donating the proceeds of their classes, and some indefinitely, like the Karma I and II classes at The Glowing Body Yoga Studio and Apparel in Knoxville, TN that is donating 100% of the proceeds to an organization called Hearts with Haiti. Over $1000 has be raised so far. Blue Lotus Yoga & Moving Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC raised over $6500 for the MercyCorps Haiti disaster relief fund through a weekend of fundraising in conjunction with the studio’s three-year anniversary. Everyone is finding a way to help.
Some organizations are even collecting used yoga mats. One studio states that the used mats are being used to provide additional sleeping surfaces in overcrowded hospitals. But another site, using the same picture of the same sign, references a completely different organization. Project Haiti: Yoga 4 Trauma, started by Maggie Juliano of Sprout Yoga and Sue Jones of Yoga Hope are collecting yoga mats in an effort to provide “long term self-sustaining mind-body trauma recovery programs to aid those suffering the affects of the devastating earthquake in Haiti."
The goal of Project Haiti: Yoga 4 Trauma is to provide long-term self sustaining support to the survivors and relief workers of the Haiti Earthquake through the medium of yoga, which would begin only after the most basic survival needs have been met, and the rebuilding process has begun.
From the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, who has offered space to train those who will participate in the project, to Deepak Chopra who invited one of the founders to appear on his radio show, the Project for Haiti: Yoga 4 Trauma initiative is well supported. There is a small body of evidence that yogic and meditation practices can provide benefit in the aftermath of a natural disaster like the study of Tsunami survivors in Southeast Asia, and Project Haiti has high hopes of making an impact amidst the suffering and devastation.
Recently, my yogi friends and I were talking about what we could do as a community of committed yogis to have a well organized body that could mobilize the right things at the right time in events of crisis all over the world. The vision is an organization that could and would be an outgrowth of the ever-expanding yoga community and provide guidance and direction in times like these when yogis so greatly want to contribute goodness and light. There are organizations such as these already in existence under the auspicious of religious affiliation and non-profit service work, but with so many yogis compassionately driven to reach out in times like these, it seems like the only thing we are missing is a body of experts to tell us where to go and what to do.
Organizations, like Off the Mat Into the World and Karma Krew, are working to organize and respond in this way. Off the Mat Into the World has to date raised over $17,000 for Haiti relief. Both organizations are training volunteers in compassionate activism and “self-transforming” service, but are they providing the “nuts and bolts” logistical and cultural preparation to go into situations such as the one in Haiti and provide effective assistance? I don’t know, but the likelihood is that they are moving in that direction. And as they refine their understanding of action in crisis situations, they will continue to be a resource for yogis to reach out and help all over the world.
Maybe the future of yoga outreach is also found within the yoga communities themselves. As the communities of specific styles and traditions grow, there is a possibility that the leaders of these communities will work to cultivate and support efforts to reach out into the world in ways that will be beneficial, well planned, and well timed. After all, yogis come in all backgrounds and flavors, from pilots to teachers, to nurses and doctors, to politicians. The resources to create and provide effective assistance are already there, all we need to do is provide a structure from which we can, as a community, reach out in a timely and efficient way.