My experience with the practice of yoga has been one of turning inwards and self-reflection. Any Google search will show the countless benefits of yoga – and I believe that they increase exponentially when shared with those around us. I soon began to wonder 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 the city of Montreal. 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 local teachers and participants together from different yoga styles, and from diverse cultural backgrounds, particularly French and English. Together, everyone followed 108 sun salutations and raised money for a local charity.
Since then 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 yet no funds.
Money is raised through yoga activities such as the annual Yoga Mala and donation based events at local partner 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 have helped launch programs for a women’s half-way house, youth at risk, low income single mothers, and the elderly.
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 volunteer run organization.
Be part of the movement and help the Yoga Mala Foundation strengthen its roots! To learn more, donate, or find out how you can get involved by volunteering your time or becoming a partner studio visit Yoga Mala Foundation. Yoga teacher and activist Seane Corn says, “Why stretch when you can reach?” And so I ask, “What are you waiting for?”
Dawn Mauricio teaches yoga and meditation in a variety of settings around Montreal, Canada, and can be regularly found halfway around the world leading yoga and meditation retreats. She continues to sit silent meditation retreats, study with senior teachers, and practice daily. In addition to being the founder of Yoga Mala Foundation, Dawn is a passionate crusader for all things healthy and integrative to such a lifestyle. Learn more at www.dawnmauricio.com.