Living your Yoga off the Mat: Taking Action after Disasters


Update: This post was written prior to Hurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico. For ways to practice karma yoga and make a difference to those recovering in Puerto Rico, check out this this PBS article.

September is National Yoga Month. There are many ways to honor your practice this month and you don’t have to go to three hot vinyasa classes a day or meditate for four hours to do so! In fact, now is the perfect time to align your action with the values that are most important to you and nourish your spirit. One way to deepen your practice simply by turning to the yoga of action: karma.

From Texas to Louisiana, Florida, Cuba and Barbuda, we have plenty of neighbors who can use our help. Many are struggling to connect with the right resources in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, let alone connect with peace and equanimity. While you’re re-energizing your yoga practice this month, consider ways to live your practice off the mat through actions that promote hope and resilience among those impacted by disasters.

Access and transportation around hard-hit areas can make it difficult for some organizations to receive physical resources. Although donating money is widely encouraged, it’s not the only way to make a difference. No action is too small if it is done out of love and kindness (and is well informed!). Here are a few ways you can take action right now:

Donate based on organizational need and local demand.

For a lot of families, it can be hard to keep basics on supply on a good day. During a disaster the basics are out of reach for nearly everyone displaced from their homes. Diapers, tampons and other hygiene products are just a few of the necessities that aren’t always stocked at emergency shelters. Groups like Happy Period have organized Amazon Wish Lists so that you can directly donate goods for distribution to their Texas chapter. The Texas Diaper Bank has developed a Harvey relief project where you can send donations of training pants, baby and adult diapers, formula and wipes straight to their headquarters. They’ve also shared instructions for starting your own diaper drive. Outside of hygiene product needs, there are many targeted ways to give goods, from blankets to pet care items. Blood banks, such as OneBlood, are also in need of O-negative blood and platelet donations.

Support local efforts.

If you’d rather donate money, giving to a specific cause or local effort can offer a more personal way to help. Local organizations are on the front lines of recovery but may be under-resourced, overlooked and underfunded. In addition to specific goods, the above organizations accept monetary donations online to go toward eliminating specific local needs. There are also a number of national and local organizations seeking donations to directly serve these communities. Check out the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (a partnership with the mayor and Greater Houston Foundation), Baker Ripley, and the Montrose Center’s LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund. Charity Navigator has a list of reputable organizations supporting specific Harvey and Irma relief projects. GlobalGiving has established separate funds prioritized for Harvey and Irma’s victims as well. You can also find targeted campaigns for the Caribbean islands affected by Irma on GoFundMe (officials from the crowdsourcing organization says fraud is rare). As always, do your research before sending any material or monetary gifts.

Send some loving kindness.

Making more time for meditation is on many to-do lists this month (and every day if we’re being honest!). Starting a loving kindness (metta) meditation practice is a timely way to cultivate and spread compassion, peace and goodwill. The magic happens when you mentally repeat phrases that send happiness, well-being, safety, peace and ease to yourself and others. What’s the beautiful thing about this practice? You’re sending the same positivity to yourself and loved ones as you are to strangers. Spreading loving kindness to those you may not even know (like those recovering from the hurricanes) starts a positive ripple effect in the world and strengthens your own capacity for empathy. Check out these science-backed benefits of loving kindness meditation on Lifehacker and learn more about the practice here. If you’re ready to give it a try, head to the One Mind Dharma podcast for a free guided metta meditation.

Follow your own call to action.

It’s great to break out of your comfort zone but don’t discount using your asana practice for good! You can dedicate your practice to families and individuals impacted by the disasters or attend a donation-based class. You can also simply give gratitude for the things you may take for granted in life. We often direct a lot of our attention and energy to things that won’t matter in the long run. Choose to live in the present moment.

How will you find your inner yogi on and off the mat this month? Share your ideas with us and keep spreading the love!

About the author

Caroline Miles teaches and blogs for Your Inner Yogi. Read more of her bio here.

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