Yoga For a Cause

The Women’s Center at Haverford hosted a Yoga-thon fundraiser on November 10 to benefit Women for Women International.

The Women’s Center at Haverford hosted a Yoga-thon fundraiser on November 10 to benefit Women for Women International. Dedicated to helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives, Women for Women is currently working in such countries as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Sudan.
“I heard about Women for Women about a year ago and wanted to do something to benefit the organization,” says Farida Esaa ’14, the student organizer of the Yoga-thon. “I also think that their mission to help rebuild the lives of women falls under part of the Women’s Center’s mission of female empowerment.”
Esaa enlisted yoga instructor and Haverford alumna Dana Miller ’86 to help with fundraising event and Miller came up with the idea for the Yoga-thon, which took place in the Swan Multi-Purpose Room in the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center. As part of the afternoon session, Miller led participants in performing 54 of the series of yoga poses known collectively as Sun Salutation.
Why 54? “Traditionally, a Yoga Mala is 108 Sun Salutations,” says Miller, who is dean of students at Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York and teaches yoga privately in her off hours. “But there is such a thing as a ‘half Yoga Mala’ and that felt more digestible to me since not everyone was likely to be a hard-core yogi or would have time to devote to 108 salutations.”

“The point of a Yoga Mala is to focus collective energy towards an intention or a cause,” says Miller. “Sun Salutations are perfect for energizing the body and calming the mind at once, and the repetitiveness of the movement really does ‘force’ everyone to plug-in and focus on the present moment and the intention at hand.”

At the Haverford Yoga-thon, participants practiced to a classic- and indie-rock playlist,  created by Miller, with songs that shared themes of  female power, faith and overcoming obstacles. The group kept count of each Sun Salutation they performed by transferring an M&M from one side of their yoga mat to the other.
“I asked each person to write down an intention that connected them to the cause of Women for Women International and place it under their mats to ‘infuse’ their practice with intention,” says Miller, who has led yoga classes at Alumni Weekend at the College.
“All in all, it was another great Haverford-meets-yoga experience for me,” says Miller.
While funds are being collected until November 20, Esaa reports that a little over $300 has been raised so far. “I like to think that no donation is too small,” she says. “I heard a lot of positive feedback from those who attended, and I think that if the event was meaningful, then it was a success.”

Photos by Brad Larrison.