5 yoga groups you can help today + cast your vote now for a charity in the real Mitten State

Bent on Learning <–> Prison Yoga Project <–> Street Yoga <–> Yoga Activist <–> Yoga Bear <–> 2011 Martin Waymire Gives Project

The holidays really bring out the best in people when it comes to supporting those who are struggling in one way or another. It’s a beautiful thing, especially when holidays can also trigger incidents such as the one in which a Black Friday shopper pepper-sprayed other customers to snag a discounted Wii.

Are you planning on taking your yoga off the mat this holiday season? If you want to, but don’t know how, I’ve listed five organizations below that you can support right now (and there’s a bonus option at the end!). I should say that I don’t know a ton about any of these organizations — they just happen to have crossed my radar at some point (usually thanks to Twitter or blogs). I encourage you to find out more, if you’re interested in helping. And I know this is just the tip of the iceberg, so please share others you want people to know about.

Bent on Learning

Eddie Stern urged over Twitter today,  “Give inner peace to inner city kids!” and included a link to Bent on Learning:

Since 2001, Bent On Learning has taught lessons from the yoga mat to inner city kids
in New York City public schools – during the school day, in the classroom, where the
learning happens. With your support, we can continue to bring this important program
to more schools and more children next year.

$25 Gives a child 3 yoga classes
$175 Gives one child weekly yoga classes for one year.
$500 Provides yoga mats to 75 kids.
$2,000 Funds a yoga class (25+ kids) for one semester.
$4,000 Funds a yoga class (25+ kids) for one year.

Prison Yoga Project

The prolific bloggers over at The Confluence Countdown today posted this:

By giving prisoners a practice that can help their self-control — maybe keep them from buying drugs, retaliating in a fight or worse — [founder James] Fox hopes to reduce the numbers of people who go into and out of prison.

Read the whole post here and then consider if you’d like to donate a book to the project.

Street Yoga

From their website:

Street Yoga is a non-profit organization that teaches yoga, mindful breathing, and compassionate communication to youth and families and their caregivers struggling with homelessness, poverty, abuse, addiction, trauma and behavioral challenges so they can grow stronger, heal from past traumas, and create for themselves a life that is inspired, safe, and joyful. Our programs are based on solid evidence that yoga helps with physical well being, depression, anxiety, trauma and PTSD.

Read more about the organization and follow @streetyoga on Twitter.

Yoga Activist

I got this email from Yoga Activist today:

Yoga Activist is so grateful to the teachers, students, partner organizations and sponsors that help make yoga accessible to trauma survivor communities. Through the diligence of these volunteers and sponsors, Yoga Activist supports over 60 yoga outreach programs in DC, Maryland, Virginia, New York, California, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.

By preparing teachers, tracking programs to measure success, building community and recognizing excellence in service, Yoga Activist provides the backbone of support that is vital to the success of yoga outreach.

Yoga Bear 

Yoga Bear is probably the yoga charity I’ve known about longest:

Yoga Bear is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting more opportunities for wellness and healing to the cancer community through the practice of yoga.

Through the Healing Yoga Project, partner yoga studios around the country offer free or donation-based yoga classes to cancer patients and survivors.

Finally, here’s a bonus way to help out others before you even leave this blog post!

Help my workplace give to a local charity

With every passing year, I feel as if more and more people in my orbit choose to give up some amount of gift-giving to instead support a charity. It’s very inspiring, and, I think, simply the right thing to do. My family and I no longer exchange gifts, choosing to adopt a family in need instead. Last year, colleagues at my firm, Martin Waymire Advocacy Communications, decided to take the budget that had been set aside for buying holiday swag for clients to instead donate to local charities. We’re doing it again this year. “Michigan Heroes: People Who Save Lives and Protect Us” is the theme of our 2011 Martin Waymire Gives Project. The way we parcel out the funds is by collecting votes. We’re taking votes until Friday, Dec. 16, 2011, so head on over and cast your vote now (even if you’re nowhere near the real Mitten State) to help out mid-Michigan charities.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A different kind of black Friday: How yoga therapy can be used to help treat depression

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Enjoying the post-Thanksgiving food high, I’m with my family in San Jose. And I see that the Mercury News ran a story the other day saying that here in Santa Clara county, someone commits suicide on average every three days. Think about that — every 72 hours.

Black Friday officially kicks off the winter holiday season — a time of year designed to be full of family, friends and celebration. For those who live with clinical depression, though, it can be one of the toughest times to go through.

In high school, I worked on a teen hotline where, in theory, anyone contemplating suicide could call (gratefully, I was never on the other end of one of those calls). Depression has profoundly affected the life course of people I care deeply about. If there’s one societal change I have long wanted to contributed to, it is that, in my own way, one conversation at a time, I want people to understand that depression is not simply being sad. Or feeling really, really down. It is chemical. Deeply physiological. You don’t just buck up to get yourself out of depression. You don’t just will yourself out. Would you tell someone living with a heart condition to just get over it? True clinical depression should be considered with the same social regard as other serious threats to health.

Which brings me to yoga, and what yoga can do. The new issue of Yoga International has a wonderful piece by Gary Kraftsow:

Depression tends to hit us on every level of our being, often all at once, which makes yoga the perfect antidote for the physical ramifications, mood swings, thoughts, and behaviors that it engenders. From a physiological perspective, depression affects the entire body, including the digestive, respiratory, hormonal, and cardiovascular systems. Yoga therapy’s main impact on our physiology is via the sympathetic and parasympathetic functions of the ANS. Depression creates a state of sympathetic/parasympathetic disregulation, which further impacts how we feel, what we think about, and how we behave.

The sympathetic nervous system governs the functions involved in the fight-flight-or-freeze response and is activated when we perceive danger. The parasympathetic nervous system governs the functions involved in the rest-and-digest or rest-and-repose response and is activated when we are at rest.

Although some types of depression include sympathetic activation (feelings of agitation or anxiety), when people become depressed, they most often experience a state of sympathetic suppression. They may have physiological symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal distress, and/or decreased libido or sense of pleasure.

Practicing asanas with adapted breathing, pranayama techniques, and guided relaxation will help to balance the nervous system. For example, doing standing postures and backbends with an emphasis on movement—during which you progressively lengthen the inhalation and the exhalation and gently hold the breath at the end of the inhalation—will activate the sympathetic response and energize the system.

Even if you don’t know anyone right now with depression, I highly recommend reading the entire article to get a better sense of how yoga can work with depression. Kraftsow also offers a unique practice sequence. And because I’m a writer by trade, I will also say–better even than consuming online, buy the winter 2011-2012 issue of Yoga International and support this kind of quality yoga content (versus so much of the vacuous, fluffy and celebrity-driven stuff you can find these days).

(Photo credit: gogoloopie’s Flickr stream)

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tapas before turkey. Tristana before tryptophan! And watch out for Rahu.

I’m pretty excited that Thanksgiving falls on a new moon day, which means it’s a day of rest. But let’s face it, even if it wasn’t a rest day, there are so many distractions and so many logistical inconveniences (like, traveling) that can make getting to the mat a challenge.

I think practicing the day before a holiday is critical. Tapas before turkey, I told my students today. Tristana before tryptophan! Hilaire Lockwood, the owner of Hilltop Yoga, will tell her students to get to the studio just before July Fourth or New Year’s Eve by simply saying, “Detox before you retox.”

Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center of course offers an astrological perspective to the holiday in his most recent blog post. He talks about Rahu, the North Node of the Moon, known as the mighty and naughty child of Maya, Goddess of Illusion, who does his best to plunge any area of life he controls into chaos by taking us off our dharmic path and tempting us to veer off into self-destruction and insatiable desire to taste, achieve, and conquer.”

Tim continues:

When we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, Rahu will be center stage, stimulating our desires for food and drink and possibly to dominate the conversation. Typically, Rahu teaches us through our excesses. After we eat or drink or talk too much we don’t feel so good. We realize that this is not the path to fulfillment, although, at the time, it may have been quite enjoyable. We find the edge by going over the edge. If you find that you get gobbled up by Rahu on Thanksgiving, don’t be too hard on yourself—there’s always yoga class on Friday.

I guess what all this means is that bookending your holidays with yoga might help you enjoy the celebrations a little more — either because you had enough self-control to find the edge without going over, or because you did go over the edge and need to climb back up to the ledge.

My youngest sister and my brother-in-law have already started cooking our family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t wait to take that first bite. By this time tomorrow night, if I’m thinking, “Rahu: 1. Rose: 0” — well, I’ll be giving thanks for my next yoga practice. And if the win-loss is flipped, then I’ll have to give thanks for my last practice.

(Photo credit: “Thai demon god Rahu snacking on the moon” via kk+’s Flickr stream.)

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.