Yoga PhilanthropyThe topic of life, yoga and philanthropy has been on my mind recently.  I’d love to be able to teach yoga altruistically without charging anyone a cent but the reality is that I have to feed myself.  It’s a struggle that many yoga teachers face and I’m sure many of you do too in your own way in your lives.  Often we want to help others but aren’t sure where to start.  How can you be a philanthropist when it’s hard enough making ends meet in our modern world?

Yoga & Philanthropy

The truth is that we don’t need to be millionaires to give generously.  We simply need to work out what “currency” we have surplus of and then how we can share it around!   I’m certainly no millionaire but my husband and I realised many years ago that the currency we have surplus of is time.  We’re both shift workers of sorts so often have extra days off since our work is done intensively on set days.  Recently we’ve been spending a month each year out in a national park caring for a camp site.  We already have a camper trailer and plenty of holiday time so are able to easily do it.  It’s nice to take time out away from the city, disconnect and give some love back to our beautiful natural environment.

Businesses Giving Charitably

From a business perspective, I think anyone that owns a business has ample opportunity for charitable work.  Amongst other things, our yoga school supports Operation Christmas Child ( ) which involves filing shoeboxes for poverty stricken children.  We’ve filled over 2,000 between us so far which I think is a great effort for a little yoga school!  Thanks to all our yoga students who fill a box as I couldn’t do this alone.  I’m not trying to get kudos for my involvement but I think it’s a good example of how we can be philanthropists using the resources we already have.

Just yesterday I realised a fellow yoga teacher and friend, Dr Jean Byrne  co-owner of The Yoga Space has given away over half a million dollars’ worth of yoga classes to her local community.  She didn’t do this alone either but simply recognised an opportunity to send her trainee teachers out into the community to offer charitable classes as part of their training. The “currency” in surplus was access to a pool of yoga teachers needing teaching experience.  It’s a simple idea with tangible results and something to ponder.

What Currency Do You Have In Surplus?

You may be reading this and thinking “What can I do, how can one person make a difference? Isn’t it all just futile in the end as there will always be poverty and suffering?” but really, we are all only one person!  These thoughts are diversions that can guide us away from actions that might lead in a positive direction.

Perhaps we are not making a difference on a world scale but we are making a difference in the moment.  The moment that the child opens a shoebox packed with love or when the student who attends a community yoga session experiences a sense of peace. The moment we realise that our action has resulted in something! To my mind, it’s the moments that really matter. The big picture is still made up of moments however big it gets.

I’m a huge believer that you do indeed get what you give.  Although the personal rewards for these small charitable acts might not seem tangible, the ripple effect that they have through communities most certainly are.

Yoga & Getting What You Give

Can we apply this similar idea of ‘we get what we give’ to our yoga practice?  The tricky thing can be that we don’t always get what we give immediately or as we expected.  I do believe the effort pays off and the ledger balances up over time if we keep going with it!  Sometimes when we are practicing, it doesn’t always seem like we are getting results.  Other times we are able to see tangible change and then that can excite us.

The problem with this is that when things are going well and we see results, we are happy to continue.  Yet when we don’t, we want to stop our practice!   The yoga sutras teach us that we should practice regardless.  Without attachment to the outcomes or allowing ourselves to veer off the path of practice.   It’s easy to be distracted and hold on too long to ideas that can get us side-tracked by either our pleasure or pain.

Sutra 1.12 states – These thought patterns are mastered through practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya).

Perhaps we need to give freely to our practice too?

Do you have surplus of a currency that you can share around?  Is it love, money, time, resources or something else?  If this has got you thinking about what you can share with others freely, I’d love to hear about it : )

Charley Hickey





Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.