My take on tradition is that the practice of yoga is one of turning inwards and of self-reflection. Present day studies show the numerous benefits of yoga – and I believe that these increase exponentially when shared with those around us.
I wanted to know what happens when we go beyond our immediate circle of friends, family, and loved ones to extend the benefits of yoga with those in need in our own communities. I started the Yoga Mala Foundation (YMF) to find out.
The YMF has its roots in a modest outdoor fundraiser I organized out of my love for yoga, which started in 2007. Known then simply as Yoga Mala, it was the first of its kind for this city. Probably like many cities, Montreal was home to a rapidly expanding yoga scene that was characterized ironically by a segregated community.
The Yoga Mala event brought Montreal teachers and participants together from different yoga styles, and from diverse cultural backgrounds. Together, everyone followed 108 sun salutations and raised money for a local charity.
This mala practice has become an annual Montreal yoga tradition. Nine teachers from different studios and styles of yoga have come together for the past seven years raising funds for different causes. In 2012 I teamed up with the founders of Naada Yoga , Jason Sharp and Elizabeth Emberly, to create the Yoga Mala Foundation. YMF is now a non-profit organization whose goal is to support local community-based yoga programs in areas where there is a clear need and no funds.
Funds are raised through yoga activities such as the Yoga Mala and by donations at participating community studios. Through our annual application process, YMF distributes the funds raised as grants to certified yoga teachers. This past January was our first grant application cycle and close to a dozen applications were received. After much consideration, the peer assessment committee painstakingly selected the four most promising and impactful projects.
YMF is proud to aid in launching programs for a women’s half-way house, youth at risk, low income single mothers, and the elderly, each beginning this spring.
In addition to organizing an annual Yoga Mala event and providing grants, we are also a community collaborative initiative. YMF’s success is dependent on others to help spread the word and raise funds. Partner studios help immensely with independently and cooperatively organized workshops, events, fundraisers, and community classes, and inspired yogis volunteer their time allowing us to be a primarily volunteer run organization.
Be part of the movement and help the YMF strengthen its roots! The annual Yoga Mala event is set for Sunday May 26 at Jeanne-Mance Park. Visit us to register, donate, or find out how you can get involved by volunteering your time or becoming a partner studio.
What are you waiting for?