We can all make a difference.
There’s a very important part of yoga that’s often overlooked in the western world: karma yoga, or seva. Karma yoga or seva is selfless service without any thought of reward or repayment.
“This is the art of giving with no need to receive, where the act itself is a gift to everyone involved.” –Daniel Scott, MindBodyGreen
In the online business world, many of us are used to “giving it away for free” to build our brands and businesses. Think free email downloads, video classes, and eBooks.
That’s great for business, and there’s nothing wrong with it– but I want to be clear that that’s not what seva is. Remember, it’s truly selfless service without any thought of reward or repayment.
Below are some ideas for ways you can use your yoga skills, time, money, and platform to give back to your community.
1. Teach free yoga classes to marginalized people
Some great places to get involved with teaching free yoga are prisons, detention centers, homeless shelters, and women’s shelters.
Here are some prison yoga programs leading the charge to bring this important practice to the people who need it most:
- Transformation Yoga Project in Philadelphia
- Liberation Prison Yoga in New York City
- Prison Yoga Project
When teaching yoga to populations with a large amount of trauma, it’s important to create a safe space for them. Click here to learn more about teaching trauma-conscious yoga.
There may also be a center in your city, like Ahimsa House in Philadelphia, dedicated to offering free healing arts to the community. Reach out and see if you can offer a class! Look up the prison yoga program in your city and if there isn’t one, do a prison yoga training somewhere else and bring it back to where you live. Reach out to shelters to offer your services.
There are so many organizations serving marginalized people that could benefit from yoga if it were offered to them. Get creative, do some research, and get involved!
2. Give money
Sometimes we have more time than money, and we can’t make a financial contribution to an organization we care about. That’s okay! But if you do have money to share, check out one of these causes:
- Help bring yoga and mindfulness practices to an elementary school classroom with Yoga Foster (Bonus: I interviewed the founder, Nicole Cardoza, on the Living Open podcast. Learn more here!)
- Send a copy of Yoga: a Path for Healing and Recovery to a prisoner with Prison Yoga Project for just $5
- Support yoga for domestic violence survivors with Purple Dot Yoga Project
- Support yoga for marginalized populations including veterans, recovering addicts, cancer patients, and people suffering with eating disorders with Give Back Yoga Foundation
- Support yoga for people affected by addiction, poverty & trauma in Greater Boston with Hands to Heart Center
- Help young people in Kenya and 13 other African countries increase their employability and tap into the economic opportunities of the wellness industry with Africa Yoga Project
These are just a few yoga-based non-profits doing incredible work in the world. Donate to one of them, or find another cause you care about and send them whatever you can.
3. Share on social
You can amplify your impact by encouraging your followers on your social media channels to practice seva, too.
Here are some ways to encourage your followers to give back:
- Highlight different non-profits like the ones above that are doing incredible healing work
- Offer a discount on classes, workshops, coaching, etc. when people send you a screenshot of their donation receipts
- Talk about your practice of seva (without showboating or asking for applause!) and invite others to share their practice in the comments
As individuals, we can do a lot. But as a community, our power is infinite. As much as social media can harm, it can also be used to do a lot of good in the world. Use your platform to amplify your impact and promote positive change.
4. Donate your old yoga mat(s)
How many old yoga mats do you have laying around? Have you ever gotten a new, shiny mat and tossed your older, still perfectly good, mat to the side?
There are many organizations who accept gently used yoga mats and give them to people who need them. Check out these options and/or Google “Where to donate my yoga mat [your city].”
- Drop it at your local Lululemon to donate it to Yoga Foster
- Check with your local homeless shelter to see if they can use it for yoga classes or as a sleeping mat
- Donate it to Yoga Activist
Isn’t that so much better than your old mat collecting dust in your basement?
5. Host a donation-based class for charity
Donation-based yoga classes are all the rage, and I love it! Email a non-profit you love and tell them you’d like to host a donation-based yoga class where the proceeds go to their organization.
Then set up the class at a location in your city (it could be your local studio, or if the weather is nice try doing it outside at a park or pier!) and promote it to your newsletter and social media followers.
Remember, yoga isn’t isn’t just about what we do on the mat. Seva is an important part of a yogi’s practice, and there are so many different ways to do it.