CategorySocial

Yoga and Charity – how we can give back

Yoga and Charity - how we can give back

How to use Yoga as a Force for Good in the World

We come to yoga for many different reasons. To reconnect with our bodies, overcome stiffness and – let’s be honest – get a body like some of those lithe yogis we see on Instagram. But once yoga has arrived in our lives, those reasons can change.

Among other things, yoga teaches us to disconnect with the stresses and strains of everyday life and to reconnect with what’s important in life. That can be time spent with loved ones, being grateful for physical health and so on. But it also encourages us to find a way to give back to the world.

global conscience yoga earth
Image Credit: Stock Photography via Unsplash.

An element of being a part of the global yogic ‘family’ is that it gives you a global conscience. Without sounding all smug and holier than thou, it’s hard to do yoga, which brings you in touch with your body and ignore the wrongs and suffering going on in the world.

In fact, one of the lesser-known niyamas (number seven of twelve) is Dānam, a Sanskrit word that means charity. Charity can get a bad rap, but without it, the world as we know it wouldn’t function.

How can we be charitable through yoga?

In the Bible (which we don’t often cite on this blog!), 1 Corinthians 13:13, it says

And now abideth faith hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

So the Bible is telling us that charity (or love) is literally the best virtue there is. But what really is it? Charity is service without expectation of reward, it is the giving of one’s time freely, and sharing your wealth with compassion.

And there are plenty of ways that we can use yoga to be more charitable.

Giving yoga to those who need it most

A way of giving charity through service is to teach yoga for free to those who really need it.

yoga children helping teach
Image Credit: Jyotirmoy Gupta via Unsplash.

For those of us that practice yoga a lot, the benefits are self-evident. And that’s when it can start to become a bit of an evangelical mission to give the gift of yoga to as many people as possible. There are plenty of pre-existing charities that run yoga lessons for those in prison, the homeless and yoga for mental health. But what about yoga in schools for teenagers suffering from anxiety? Or chair yoga for the elderly and infirm in your local nursing home? Yoga has boundless benefits for those with physical and mental problems and there is literally no barrier to doing yoga. So let’s get out into the world and make a difference!

Using yoga as a way to raise money

One of the most straightforward ways is through using yoga as a means to raise money. A couple of years ago I took part in a sponsored yogathon when a large group of us gathered in a local park and performed 108 sun salutations, raising money for Greenpeace. Standing in a huge circle with my yoga friends and colleagues, stretching up toward the actual sun (incredibly for the UK, it was actually beaming down on us) and pressing my hands and feet down towards the earth, it felt like a completely YOGIC thing to do.

It doesn’t have to be 108 sun salutations though (my arms were SORE for the next week), you can do anything! What about a sponsored handstand challenge? Or a group of you could get together to do a headstand in a public place as a way of drawing attention not only to your cause but to how epic yoga is too. Or a sponsored ‘standing pose challenge’ where you run through every single standing pose a few times. Or just hold a ‘charity’ lesson, where students come and donate as much as they can for a chosen cause. The possibilities are endless.

Volunteer on a yoga holiday

yoga holiday volunteer teach
Image Credit: Mor Shani via Unsplash.

To be fair, this is not the most selfless way to combine yoga and charity, but it’s a very canny way! If you simply don’t have the funds to go on a yoga holiday, but you know that you would benefit so much from time away from your life to just be somewhere lovely, doing yoga, chatting to lovely yogic people, and generally overdosing on all the loveliness, there’s a way that you can go, for just the cost of your travel.

In return for putting in some shifts (around five-six hours a day) helping out with food prep, cleaning and other chores, you can go on some yoga retreats for free. This can be a great way to get some undiluted yoga without emptying your bank account. Some companies that offer this are barefootyoga.me and Eco retreats, which offers free accommodation in a beautiful rural forest in Wales in return for helping out in the forest and teaching the odd class.

We don’t have to give too much away for free

A small counter to being charitable, which is important, is to remember that yoga teachers do already give a lot already. We give our skills, energy, time, care and thought to each and every one of our students. So if you don’t have time to do a sponsored yogathon, or teach a free class to the deserving, don’t beat yourself up. You’re already giving a lot.

Poppy Pickles
For inspiration

STUFFED! Yoga Poses to help digest Christmas Lunch

STUFFED! Yoga Poses to help digest Christmas Lunch

Christmas is a time to let go of all those dietary disciplines and just let loose! For a few days each year, most of us put our healthy eating efforts to one side and over-eat to our heart’s content. And it’s not just the over-eating, it’s rich food!

Take the traditional British Christmas lunch. Turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnips, mashed celeriac, Brussel sprouts, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and, to top it all off, lashings of gravy. That’s how it goes in our family anyway. What’s lovely about the traditional Christmas lunch is that for every family there’s something a little bit different, which makes it the special annual over-indulgence it is.

And personally, I wouldn’t miss out on any of it. However, the after-effects can be disastrous. So here are some ways to help to alleviate the bloating, lethargy and sluggishness of the post-prandial Christmas state. (more…)

Poppy Pickles

Cheeky Yogi at the OM Yoga Show – yoga pants are not created equal

Cheeky Yogi at the OM Yoga Show - yoga pants are not created equal

Nothing was more obvious as to how much of a business yoga is, than at this year’s Om Yoga Show in London. It tied in with the Mind, Body, Soul Show, buy one ticket and go to both exhibitions. It felt like one enormous, never-ending circus, everyone vying for your attention and selling their soul.

Every possible item you can imagine is for sale from the obvious such as mats, clothes to the less obvious shamanic witchcraft and food dice. (Which literally is what it says: a set of dice with food names on it)

(more…)

Find your Foundation

The Cheeky Yogi – You can’t be 100% Authentic 

The Cheeky Yogi - You can’t be 100% Authentic 

Barely two months after graduating from my 200-hour teacher training course, I landed a regular teaching slot at one of the most exclusive clubs in the UK. This isn’t me bragging, but contemplating ‘how on earth did that happen?!’ How do you land a yoga job when you’re a fresh graduate (or newbie)? What is the magic formula for landing a yoga job? Sometimes it’s an audition and the employer just knows you’ll fit in. Sometimes it’s timing and the gods decide to smile on you that day (and you remember your cues!). Or maybe it’s who you know (and/or how many Instagram followers you have!!), but that discussion is for another article.

Let’s be honest, in the beginning, no matter how good your 200-hour teacher training is, you are still wading your way through mud trying to find your own voice. ‘Just be yourself’ gets bandied about as a solution, but isn’t that similar to being told to ‘act natural’ whilst bending over in a wide-legged forward fold with the entire class fixed intently on your rotund posterior. What does ‘just be yourself’ even mean? (more…)

Cater yoga training to your life

An Interview with Lolly Stirk: Pregnancy Yoga Legend

An Interview with Lolly Stirk: Pregnancy Yoga Legend

Lolly Stirk is a legendary Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga teacher, an early advocate of the Active Birth Movement, and founder of Yogabirth, a pregnancy, and postnatal yoga teacher training organization. She currently teaches in Notting Hill, and at Triyoga in Chelsea.

Lolly is such a warm, open person. I had had the great luck of doing her birth preparation course 15 years ago before my son was born. Before the interview even began she insisted that I send a photograph of myself so she could remember me, and amazingly she did. Halfway through the interview, she stopped to ask me about how my births had gone and was genuinely interested, as well as pleased for me that they had been positive experiences.

This proved to me (if it needed proving) that her commitment and passion for supporting pregnant and post-natal mothers is absolutely at the root of all she does. Read on for my interview with her… (more…)

Poppy Pickles