The Métropolitain

Yoga gets off the mat and tries to help part of the world

By Beryl Wajsman on October 19, 2012


Local instructor Lauren Rudick is only Quebecer among hundreds participating in worldwide effort.

Many people think yoga is a discipline practiced by those privileged with the time and means for proper instruction and a certain degree of self-absorption. Somewhat removed from the harsh realities of life that beset most people. It is of course not that at all. And for for the past several years, adherents to a certain school of Yoga have set out to demonstrate just that.


The Global Seva Challenge, a program of "Off the Mat into the World", adopts a cause every year and hundreds of yoga instructors around the world adopt personal projects to raise money for the goal. This year the Seva Challenge is to help victims of sex trafficking. Off the Mat into the World is a non-profit organization whose mission is to use yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and to ignite grass roots social change.

Sex trafficking is considered by international law enforcement to be the third most profitable criminal industry in the world ranking right behind illicit drugs and arms. Readers may recall that CNN's Hero of the Year last year was a diminutive Indian woman who helped rescue Nepalese girls from sex traffickers and the brutal conditions they were forced to lead their Iives in. It's that high profile a problem.

Two hundred participants worldwide are involved this year in raising funds for four projects in India, considered one of the globe's most troubled areas for sex trafficking.  Montrealer Lauren Rudick, founder of Avigna Yoga, is the only Quebecer in the challenge. So far Seva challenge participants have raised over $344,000 this year.

smile.jpgRudick's goal is to raise $20,000. How she's doing it is truly novel. Working with talented local photographer Pazit Perez, they have produced a calendar - that coincides with the September start of the school year - showing Rudick in tastefully nude, yoga poses. The treatment of the photographs was Perez' idea. And the outcome is singularly unique. Their idea was to celebrate the female form, showcasing the strength and power that yoga can cultivate. The photos combat notions of submission and meekness of women that fester in areas where sex trafficking is prevalent. Rudick is hoping that the sale of the calendars will get her to her goal.

All the money raised will go to four initiatives in India. The first is the Sanlaap Rehab Shelter for 25 girls rescued from red light districts. This will be Sanlaap's fifth shelter. The four already in operation help 250 girls. The second initiative is the expansion of the Made by Survivors  Employment Center  that trains and employs over 60 survivors of sex slavery as artisan goldsmiths in Kolkata and Mumbai. The third is the Clean Himalaya (Rishikesh)  Waste Management Project that operates  door-to-door garbage collection from over 400 registrants. The final beneficiary of the funds will be the Mother Miracle School Vocational Skills Training Program School that serves 600 children from the lowest caste system and community. It is the only free school and community center of its kind in the slums of Rishikesh.

The calendars are Rudick's biggest fundraising push but in the fall she plans to put on a large Yogathon, collaborating with several teachers and studios throughout the city as an additional fundraising event and to bring further awareness to the cause. It will feature yoga sessions with various teachers, silent auctions and a raffle.

backbend.jpgRudick's calendars are available in Montreal at Westmount Stationary, the Sunshine Gallery, the UNI training center, at Studio Bliss and Pur Art. In New York City they are available at the Namaste Bookshop and may be purchased online from anywhere in the world at Interested vendors can contact Avigna Yoga and Rudick will make sure that calendars are shipped to their stores.