Well, the latest news in the yoga world is enough to make me go crazy (for example, high-profile teachers featured in tasteless American Apparel ads, the coregasm, etc), so an understated story on Slate.com a few days ago has restored my faith in the potential of yoga in North America.

The article notes “a burgeoning service ethic in the yoga world, often directed overseas and packaged in soft-lit glamour photos.” However, this ethic is at the root of a movement within the yoga community to get organized and create change.

Last week’s annual conference of the National Alliance To End Homelessness in Washington, DC, featured yoga on the agenda, for the first time ever. While even the most naïve and earnest yogi activist knows that yoga is not going to end homelessness, there is increasing “anecdotal evidence” that a little yoga in shelters can provide some necessary, temporary relief for people living on the streets. At the moment, the anecdotal evidence isn’t enough to get yoga some serious credibility from advocacy organizations, but some yoga service providers are starting to get organized – including the Portland, Oregon-based Street Yoga, and the Yoga Service Council.

Of course, public dollars tend to follow studies that prove effectiveness. And though yoga’s effect as a stress reliever has gone mainstream and there is some evidence that it may help with drug addiction, there isn’t statistical evidence yet on whether it helps the homeless. At Street Yoga, and the newly created Yoga Service Council, Mark Lilly has convened a research group to figure out the metrics by which you’d actually gauge how it works. The bigger problem, though, is that the transient homeless don’t make for a great study population. “Doing anything with any sort of long-term perspective is literally impossible,” Lilly says. [Slate.com]

For more on yoga and service:

New York Times article

New York Daily News article

Service is the next step

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