Photo by James Fallows, via theatlantic.com

The above photo (taken outside of a San Francisco yoga studio) has turned up on Boing Boing, Gawker and HuffPo today ~ and sensitive yogis, do not read the comment sections! Most of the mainstream buzz is loaded with mockery and derision, as the general public takes on the misguided intentions of yogis who might want to help out Haitians by donating their old yoga mats.

It’s just a photo and we don’t know the whole story… perhaps the studio is hooked up with Yoga 4 Trauma‘s Project Haiti initiative, which has a cohesive and long-term plan to offer therapeutic yoga to survivors and responders. Perhaps somebody has come up with a way to transform bacteria-ridden old yoga mats into inflatable hospitals.

But at first glance, I’m reminded of an excellent blog post by La Gitane over at Yoga Gypsy in response to a recent article about “disaster do-gooders” sometimes doing more harm than good. As she points out, “As yogis and yoginis, we are particularly likely to want to reach out in tragic situations, to be proactive, to DO something that we feel can alleviate the suffering we see.”

Is shipping yoga mats to Haiti a thoughtful response to suffering? Or is it simply a self-serving act to get rid of unwanted items in our yoga rooms? As we’ve all been told countless times, the most effective way to support the efforts in Haiti is to send cold hard cash to reputed aid organizations (Red Cross, Partners in Health, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity). How much impact could a used yoga mat campaign have on a country in need of rebuilding and healing?

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