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Yoga Mats for Haiti Breeds Controversy, Bad Karma?

in World News, YD News, Yoga Heroes


Is donating your yoga mat really helping the people of Haiti? This image popped up on James Follows blog over at The Atlantic yesterday and has since been splashed across the web with the likes of Gawker, Boing Boing and HuffPo all having a crack at it, inciting references to Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless who donates her skiis to the Pismo Beach Disaster. What most readers and snarkopolists (commenters) deduced was that yoga mats for Haiti was simply a waste of time and that those stinky hippies just want to get rid of their old sweat-beatin mats! The Gawker team received a response to clear up the message:


Hi there! At the end of last month the annual Yoga Journal Conference was here in town at the Hyatt regency. JADE yoga mat, one of the vendors, took it upon themselves to invite attendees to bring old or used yoga mats to be donated to overcrowded hospitals to be used as bedding. We simply acted as a place where people could drop the used mats and we then took the mats to JADE yoga’s booth at the conference. From there, they organized sending the mats to Haiti to be used as bedding.

Thank you for your question and hopefully my answer clarifies the intention behind the mat drive.

Warm regards,

Leila Burrows

(Leila Burrows co-founder of The Pad Studios in SF)

There you have it, case solved! Right? Not exactly. Still looming is the question of whether or not any sort of donation of “stuff” is useful. After this explanation, Gawker edited their post with a slightly hinted “oops”-update (we said slightly), while Mr. Follows at the Atlantic added a wrap-up post with counter arguments and logistics to feeling good about donating “stuff”.

Is donating your old yoga mat really adding to aid or is it karma yoga chasing its own tail?

Follow the discussion in progress at one of our favorite blogs It’s All Yoga Baby or share your thoughts below.

Read more about an actual Yoga for Haiti effort and a great organization in the works: Yoga4Trauma.org and Project Haiti.

EarlierYogActivism: Yoga for Haiti, Fundraising Events in NYC this Weekend

YogaDorks for Haiti: Help.Hope.Heal, Buy the T-Shirt!

12 comments… add one
  • Donating stuff – usable and highly needed stuff – is perfectly acceptable and even commendable. The challenge lies in the organizers getting it to those in need. And with stuff there is not a percentage that would be used for ‘administration’ unlike many monetary donations. Those in Haiti may not need the mats for yoga but there are many uses for mats including bedding, crib liners, flipflops, even shelter. And if they happen to strike a tree pose or downdog, or take a moment to simply breathe and enjoy being alive, what a wonderful way to recognize the divine in all of us.

  • I, for one, believe everything is a renewable source as mentioned in a previous comment. Recycling yoga mats can be used for just about anything. The Karma is not a questionable Karma. Paying it forward 2 Haiti as well as other countries (Mexico) where people including babies are sleeping on hard and dusty dirt. I believe they should be disinfected before sending off to places where they are needed. BTW are there any dirty hippees left?

  • MaryBeth

    As one of the organizations sending yoga mats to Haiti, I can assure you that these mats are being used – and are a blessing to those receiving them. First used as “hospital beds”, when the patient population exceeded the capacity of the hospital, the yoga mats were a great alternative to recovering on the dirt. Now being distributed, along with tents, to people that lost their home – they are a welcome alternative to sleeping on the ground.
    Many thanks to all who donated their mats!

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