Love Yoga? Love Animals?
What has Animals Asia got in common with Yoga?
We spoke to Animals Asia’s event manager and fellow yoga teacher about how to contribute to ending animal suffering by getting involved with the Animals Asia ‘Big Bear Stretch’
• what is the connection between Yoga and Animals Asia?
“I feel like there is a strong connection between yoga and the animal suffering Animals Asia is working to prevent. The most obvious to me is the fact that in all 3 of our campaigns – end bear bile farming, cat and dog welfare and captive animal welfare – the animals are incarcerated sometimes their whole life.
They often haven’t even the space to stand up, turn around or stretch. Looking at our bears ‘yoga-ing’ in our bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam or even the shapes my cats get into in my home I can’t imagine how they must feel confined like that.
I also think how our rescued bears forgive is an important link. Despite all their years of torture they put it all behind them, learn to love and to trust and most of all savour every ounce of their new lives with such joy. That is a yoga lesson in itself. Then there is ‘ahimsa’ of course and having compassion for all beings which is important.”
to find out more about the work of Animals Asia please visit www.animalsasia.org
• how does doing yoga help end animal suffering?
“Well, quite simply, if you can donate a yoga class proceeds to Animals Asia then it directly helps with our campaigns. More than that though, I believe that yoga is a perfect way to bring people together to not only learn about our cause but also send out some much needed positive energy for those poor animals. Like the ripple effect.”
What if people aren’t good at yoga? can anyone do it?
“YES anyone, yoga really is for everyone. There’s a common misconception that you can be ‘not very good’ at yoga but it’s not true. Improving flexibility is only a tiny part of yoga, a lot of it is about stilling the mind, working with the breath, and being more connected with nature and others around you but it’s a vast world to explore”
• why is kindness to animals part of yoga philosophy?
“I could delve into the philosophy of yoga all day long however the way I see it is yoga is to realise that all beings are connected as one, that means you, me, bears, cats, dogs and the bees buzzing around your garden. In yoga they would say if you harm another being you are therefore only harming yourself because we are all connected. I love this concept.
The great revered yogi ‘Ramana Maharshi’ had a cherished best friend who was a cow called ‘Lakshmi’ He knew that animals should be given as much respect and love as we give other people and treated the same. He was once as “how should we treat others?” and he replied “there are no others”. He was a very wise man indeed.”
• you teach yoga for charity, what inspired you to start this up?
“Obviously in our jobs we see much animal suffering and really from the moment I started working for Animals Asia I wanted to be able to do more in my personal life to help. Every animal cruelty case you hear drives you forwards to do more however there are some cases that really stick in your mind.
For example, this is a moon bear called Jasper.
Jasper was kept in what they call a ‘crush cage’. Crush cages are used to hold the bears in place during the bile extraction from their Gall Bladders through a metal catheter. Shockingly, Jaspers crush cage bars where kept in the flattened position meaning that not only was he in a cage but he was kept flattened to the bars like that the whole time. By the time Jasper reached Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson in 2000 he had been caged for 15 years. The bars were rusted closed.
Animals Asia’s sanctuary staffs weren’t convinced that he would ever regain his spirit but he did! A true example of love and forgiveness. Jasper became one of the most cheeky, handsome and loved bears at our sanctuary. He was our founder’s best friend. Sadly after spending 15 more years with us he passed away last year. I’m glad I work for a charity that gave him some of his life back and allowed him to live out his days with the grass under his paws and the sun on his back.”
“Few acts of man are more cruel than bear bile farming”
• who is the Big Bear Stretch event aimed at?
“Animals Asia actually has quite a few yogis and reiki practitioners in its staff believe it or not but even those who don’t realise they’re perhaps practising yoga actually are…
We often hear of the deep connection our bear carers have with the bears in our sanctuaries and how visitors call the sanctuaries a true place of peace. I think people know there is something more special about Animals Asia charity and the work that we do. I certainly do. We are led by an incredibly compassionate person ~ Jill Robinson ~ and therefore she attracts compassionate followers.
To answer the question, it is aimed at the holistic and compassionate community and those who feel that they can create change through their practice.”
• do you have advice for people holding their own Big Bear Stretch?
“The best advice I was ever given was to be real. If you are honest in your intentions or if you are a teacher – honest in your teachings – then I think that shines through. Passion and compassion shine through and people can tell when you’re not real. Teach from the heart with meaning.
And also, just GO FOR IT. I think people have too much self-doubt but if you believe you can create change then you can and you will. Decide to hold a fundraiser and then give it your all, with authenticity, people will join you!”
• how do people get involved?
“visit www.animalsasia.org/Yoga and order a free fundraising guide. It has all you need to host your event ~ step by step guide, poster, donation box, chant sheet and even some pose suggestion for a kids ‘little bear stretch’
My hope is year on year this event will grow bringing more people together to make a stand against animal cruelty and create an unstoppable movement for change.