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Let’s face it, for most people the term ‘yoga’ evokes the image of a mat and a class and a lot of people stretching into seemingly impossible poses. Part of the reason for this is that, in the West, we have chosen to publicly focus on the physical side of yoga, the asanas set out by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. While the asanas are an integral part of yoga, they are only a portion of the broader set of practices and beliefs that constitute yoga in its most complete form. Although it is essential to continue to explore ourselves on the mat, the philosophy of yoga teaches us that it can be even more gratifying to help those around us.
LA based yoga teacher, Seane Corne, has created the campaign “Off the Mat, Into the World,” as a way to engage the worldwide yoga community. One of the focus of “Off the Mat, Into the World,” is YouthAIDS. This was a natural decision for Seane after her work with Children of the Night - a non-profit organization that offers shelter and education to adolescent prostitutes in the United States. During her time working with Children of the Night, Seane began to see that many of the young prostitutes were infected with HIV/AIDS.
Simultaneously, long time friend and student, actress Ashley Judd, began to expose Seane to the organization YouthAIDS, an HIV/AIDS education and prevention initiative of Population Services International (PSI). YouthAIDS targets youths between the ages of 15-24 (50% of new infections occur in this demographic) with messages of abstinence and safer sex.
Some of the organization’s initiatives to raise money for YouthAIDS include the sale of 100% organic cotton “Off the Mat, Into the World” t-shirts - available on the YouthAIDS website, and the chance to pay a fee and have Seane Corn come to a school and teach a yoga class of your choice.
Today, more than 40 million people are infected worldwide with AIDS and over 8000 people die from AIDS each day. As we continue to go to yoga class and to practice the asanas, it is healthy to remember the bigger picture and to ask, as Seane suggests, “Not, how can yoga change me? But, how can I, through the practice of yoga, help change this world.”
So thank you Seane for suggesting that in the name of yoga we get off the mat, and into the world!