These yoga teachers are using their platforms to give back to the community in necessary and inspiring ways.
The yoga community has no shortage of selfless souls dedicated to doing good work—after all, being of service is what yoga’s all about. And while we’re the first to throw appreciation toward the stellar work being done by the Giveback Yoga Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, and the Yoga Service Council, we’re here cheering on the underdogs, too. Here are six up-and-coming yoga-teacher founded organizations that are on our radar—and we think should be on yours, too.
1. Desmond’s Friends
Yoga teacher Megan Vandyke created Desmond’s Friends after losing her son just two hours after giving birth. The fundraiser initially set out to raise enough money to donate another CuddleCot—a cooling system that allowed Desmond to remain with Vandyke and her husband in the hospital for three days rather than immediately being taken to a mortuary—to their local hospital in Murfreesboro Tennessee. “In the US, there are more than 23,000 infant deaths a year—about 6 out of every 1,000 live births, which does not even account for stillbirths,” Vandyke wrote on her GoFundMe page. “[The Cuddle Cot] is about giving parents choices and reassuring them that they can spend time with their baby.” Since reaching their goal for the first Cuddle Cot in July, the couple have set out to establish an official nonprofit to continue their work helping other parents facing heartbreaking loss.
2. Embody Love Movement
Motivated to empower girls and women to love themselves and evoke positive change in the world, the Embody Love Movement spearheads initiatives such as awareness campaigns for school kids that support positive self-talk and non-judgmental attitudes, self-love transformational workshops to teardown media-perpetuated myths and bolster self-worth and purpose, and a summer camp where “girls ages 9-12 are given the opportunity to move, breathe, be creative and find joy in the bodies they’re in today.”
3. The Aleksander Fund
The Aleksander Fund was created by yoga instructor and author Jennifer Pastiloff to help bring women on her retreats who are in need of extra emotional support and healing—specifically those who have lost a child. Pastiloff created the scholarship to honor the late son of her friend and reader Julia Anderson. After initially raising money for Anderson to attend one of her retreats in Italy, the power of the experience led Anderson to want to pay it forward, and thus, the Aleksander Fund was born. You can donate here and can apply to the scholarship by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with Aleksander Fund in the subject line.
4. Bent on Learning
Bent On Learning was founded in 2001 by yoga teachers Anne Desmond, Jennifer Ford, and Courtney McDowell. The nonprofit is committed to teaching yoga to New York City public school children, delivering yoga and personal mats to as many kids as possible—right in their classrooms during their school day. The organization has reached up to 18,000 children in the past 15 years and continues to spread light through yoga throughout New York.
5. Purple Dog Yoga Project
Teacher Kate Berlin started the Purple Dot Yoga Project to support and empower people affected by domestic violence through yoga practice and philosophy. Their teachers specialize in Trauma Informed Yoga and provide free classes at domestic violence shelters and at studio partners in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut, and California. Learn more, donate, or become a volunteer here.
6. Yoga Gangsters
Founded by yoga teacher Terri Cooper, Yoga Gangsters mission is to raise-up youth through yoga, providing free classes to kids in crisis, be it schools, juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, rehabs, and foster care. The organization aims to address the symptoms of trauma and poverty by using yoga to deliver messages of self-empowerment, self-respect, self-control, and self-awareness.
7. Eat Breathe Thrive
Eat Breathe Thrive was created by Chelsea Roff, a yoga teacher who found strength to overcome her eating disorder from yoga and the community. The organization provides programs for others suffering with similar disorders and teaches critical skills for long-term recovery through yoga and an integrative, tried-and-true approach to healing.
8. The Dharma Project
The Dharma Project was founded in 2016 in Atlanta and brings mindfulness and yoga to communities that experience high levels of stress and trauma. On a mission to diversify the people who teach and benefit from these practices, the organization has teamed up with local institutions such as the Decatur Housing Authority, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta and others to bring yoga to more than 150 community members in the Atlanta metro area.