yoga for haiti: a compassionate response

The winner of the YogaDorks for Haiti T-shirt design contest!

So yesterday was Yogis for Haiti day, a call to action initiated by the excellent yoga activist organization, Off the Mat and Into the World. It was an invitation to the global yoga community to practice in support of Haiti relief efforts. Yoga studios were encouraged to be part of the event and commit to donating a percentage of their earnings to Partners in Health. I didn’t participate because I only found out about the event on Tuesday, which wasn’t enough time to get organized, and I’m not a studio, and I don’t teach yoga on Wednesdays.

But even though I didn’t sign up for the official event, it was enough to inspire me to donate all contributions from my weekly Thursday community class to Doctors Without Borders, in support of Haiti relief (the class is always pay-what-you-wish, and all funds are donated back to rad’a, the space where I teach). I’ve been watching the yoga community’s response to the crisis in Haiti, and it has been really inspiring. This initiative and Project Haiti: Yoga 4 Trauma (which is a long-term plan for bringing yoga therapy to Haiti) are among the more united calls to action. On a smaller scale, I’ve seen some fundraising classes in my community, and there have been other, more creative responses, such as YogaDork’s excellent T-shirt design contest.

Yet, I also see that it’s difficult to rise to action as a united yoga front. And I can speak for myself in saying that I’m still kind of overwhelmed by the whole earthquake situation. I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions since the news broke two weeks ago, and it even silenced my blogging. What could I say after such a tragedy? What could I offer? Blogging about yoga felt so very trivial compared to that kind of catastrophe. I have felt emotional overwhelm, powerlessness, media saturation, and finally “compassion fatigue.” I felt like I all I had to give is money (and some old clothes), and it isn’t enough, and there are so many logistical barriers that my teeny little contribution won’t even reach those who need it in time…

And then I came to see that this self-defeating way of thinking doesn’t serve anyone. I also began to feel a responsibility as a yoga teacher and member of my community to step forward and give what I can. Yoga. Not only for the people of Haiti, but for the people in my own community, who may have been feeling the same emotional drain and conflicted feelings as I have been, and may be in need of a little nurturing. And so, this afternoon I’ll be offering a heart-centred class with an emphasis on developing compassion for self and others. It may be just a small token, but it’s something.

What has been the response in your yoga community to Haiti’s suffering? What has been your personal, emotional response?

If you’re not able to make it to any of the yoga for Haiti events happening in your community, but still want to contribute in a yogified way, show your love with the official YogaDorks for Haiti shirt! All proceeds go to the Red Cross!

  1. There have been a number of benefit classes at studios in Philly, including one that I attended on Monday, as well as a couple of teachers deciding donate their yoga teaching pay for a day or week.

    Of course none of us can do enough…all we can do is do what we can…

  2. Great post. I love that you are doing/did a heart centered class today. Great sentiment! Thanks too for visiting my blog. I love yours! Looking forward to more interesting reads with you!

  3. It’s great that you have found your compassion and are able to move beyond negative emotions. Times of crisis leave us feeling inadequate, depressed, cynical, vulnerable and helpless – to name a few. But it’s not about us, is it? Use these emotions to learn more about yourself and transform them into compassionate action.

    And, take heart. Dollars donated today can’t help people yesterday, this is true. But the recovery in Haiti will be a long, long process – one that has not even begun yet! Compassion, and funding, will dry up. A fair percentage of dollars that nations “pledged” to the relief efforts will never arrive – most humanitarian appeals never even find 50% of what they estimate they need.

    So EVERY donation today counts. Every “teeny” financial contribution helps to fill the pot, and organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health depend in part on donations from the public to bring their valuable services to the ground. There will be a need to help in Haiti long, long after it no longer graces the news headlines or our daily thoughts.

    Well done for making your contribution in many different ways. 🙂

    • thanks for your thoughtful response, LaGitane! just after posting, i discovered your excellent haiti post on your blog… it was just what i needed to hear. and so was this. thanks for taking the time to stop by!

  4. Good Post. I donated all the money from passes, drop ins, and an extra collection box during classes and a workshop last Saturday to the Red Cross for Haitian Relief and we collected $1,230. And believe me, we are a small group of yogis here. I was overwhelmed with the response. I was hoping for $200. There was one very large donation by one yogi which really put us over the top. This person was inspired by the little community we have created here practicing yoga together. I like what Stevie Wonder told someone who called the telethon with a “small” donation. “A lot of littles, make a lot of lots.” I feel inspired to try and give back more and in other ways– personally, and as a group of yogis too.

  5. Just today a friend commented “By living and doing our very best, each day, in our own sphere of influence, we make the world a better place.” Thank you for living this sentiment. Whether it is a donation of time, money, things, or talents we all have much to give and make the world a little brighter as we share the journey together.

    Keep living with your heart wide open.


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