Every day at 2.30pm and every Saturday at 10am, Laughing Lotus hosts a Vinyasa class to benefit a non-profit serving local and distant communities. To be exact, this program, called Love Saves the Day, selects a different charity monthly to donate 50% of proceeds from their (totally packed) Vinyasa class.
This past Saturday morning, we attended Love Saves the Day with the inimitable Jasmine Tarkeshi and were deeply inspired when she stopped us in the middle of class to explain her quest: ’So many of us operate from a place of lack. But we all have something to give, and when we realize this, not only can we help someone else, but we help ourselves. And this, in turn, helps others because we are all connected.’ She used herself as an example - living in SF these days, she’s not flush with the kind of funds that might really help make a difference, but she does have a yoga studio. And so, she decided to use what she had not only to help others, but to help spread her very yogi message as well. We couldn’t help but fall in love with Jasmine and her mission, and so we caught up with her to find out more…
How do you select the charities you support?
Oh dear, It's the hardest choice I make every month! There are so many incredible non-profits doing incredible service. The first benefit class was for Thanksgiving right after we opened in the Fall of '99 in NYC. In November it's COLD and there are so many hungry and homeless New Yorkers. I wanted to do something! Through research, I found City Harvest. They distribute uneaten food from restaurants and food stores to shelters and people on the street. Most charities are coming up with creative solutions to our worlds greatest problems and needs. Another one I found that I loved was Monkey Biz in South Africa that empowers women to provide for their families through donating glass beads and materials to resurrect the ancient art of South African beading. The beads are given to artists to create beautiful items they then sell. Their creations help generate income to support their families. I love this because the women are being empowered (rather than being given handouts) which helps end the cycle of poverty. A similar organization in San Francisco is Creativity Explored. They've provided space and material to developmentally disabled artists and have big art openings to sell their art and help the artists make a living. And then there are natural disaster-affected communities we support in Haiti or Nepal. We've also supported refugees and at other times we've even helped support a member of our community who asks for help.
How long have you been implementing Love Saves the Day, and how has this helped to make a difference?
Love Saves the Day started as an ongoing Seva program in 2003 when I got hip surgery and I couldn’t walk, teach or practice physically. I remember feeling so powerless and after sitting on the cosmic pity-pot for a minute, I decided to do SOMETHING! For many people Yoga is known as an inner practice. The eight limbed path, outlined in the Yoga Sutras, begins with Yama’s or our practices that connect us to others. The concern for the welfare of others is essential to our practice. My yoga became Karma Yoga or self transcendent action. I think it makes a difference in connecting our personal practice to service of the world. Our practice can become so self centered. The Love Saves the Day class which merges Yoga & Activism really wakes people up by shedding light on challenging issues like racism and how we all participate. But with personal responsibility comes personal power. I love offering specific ways every month on how to contribute and feel it is really important to bring light to the worlds' pain to awaken compassion.
You’ve always been passionate about social activism. How does the on-mat yoga practice complement your work for social change?
I came to Yoga through Activism. I was a passionate Activist as a teenager, protesting, getting arrested and speaking up and out about every cause against all the injustices in the world! However, I was terribly self destructive and self loathing! The On-Mat Yoga practice transformed my life through developing a personal daily discipline and protest so to speak, against the violence and injustice within. My teachers and the teachings taught me that we can battle the mighty dragons of hatred, prejudice and ignorance with wisdom and LOVE instead of with more hate and anger. Anger IS important and a very powerful agent of change if channeled through action. As I deepened my practice, I realized Yoga IS the Path of Action, Kriya Yoga and works on transforming oneself to be a true agent for change. Tattooed on my arm is a Lotus with the Mantra: Lokha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu which means: May all beings be Happy and Free from Suffering and may my words, thoughts and actions contribute in some way. I really try to live by this Mantra and try to awaken my students awareness to the many ways they can participate in standing up against injustice.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The world is in such dire need, our brothers and sisters are suffering, so many lives are in danger, the Earth is on the brink of extinction and yet there are millions of people around the world practicing Yoga. This is a positive fact! My hope is to bridge the beauty and power of these inner practices and help teachers and students to bridge their personal practice in being of service to their communities, the planet, its human and non-human beings. I am so excited to announce that I am in the process of developing a Yoga and Social Activism Training/conference with some amazing Bay Area teachers. We also have panel discussions to educate Yogis and Yoga Teachers on how to directly apply the tenets of Social Activism to their Yoga practice and lives. One of the goals is to celebrate the many common practices Yoga and Social Justice share and begin a movement of Yogis everywhere Saving the Day with Love!
Photo: Courtesy of Jasmine Tarkeshi
Post written for SFYogaMag.com