Yoga group offers micro-loans to Indian women

December 29, 2011 3:26:50 PM PST
Better breathing, increased flexibility and reduced stress. Those are just a few of the benefits some yoga fans say they receive from the practice. Now, they are using the exercise as a way to give back to the country where it originated. It's how a group of southwest suburban yogis show their spirit of giving.

Yoga dates back to pre-historic India and devout practitioners say it benefits the mind, body and spirit.

Some women at Yoga 360 Studio and Spa in southwest suburban Frankfort say it makes sense that they would want to say "thank you."

"Yoga in the U.S. alone is a $6 billion a year industry between classes, products, things like that. Yet, 76 percent of India's population lives below the poverty line of $2.50 a day. So the whole idea was we should rally our yogi troops and give back to the birthplace of our practice," said Chelsea Mack, Yoga Gives Back.

Participants don't have to do anything special - just show up to class as they normally would. The class fees are donated to an organization called Yoga Gives Back. The group offers micro-loans to struggling women who are trying to start businesses in India.

"Making the loans to women has been extremely successful both in the repayment rate as well as the impact it makes for the families," said Mack.

It's a concept that was easy for Yoga 360 Studio and Spa owner Colleen Rose to embrace.

"When you look at the fact that $2.50 a day is being made in India and our classes typically a walk-in class is $15, we have an opportunity to really make a difference," said Rose.

Yoga Gives Back also offers educational scholarships. The organization has made a five-year commitment to educate 22 children so far. Knowing the impact of their dollars, on donation days, participants often contribute even more than the cost of the class.

"I've been practicing yoga for about a year-and-a-half now and I went to just come and relax and just clear my head. So, it's nice to give back for everything we've gained from yoga," said Michele Valecek of New Lennox.

Yoga 360 holds a donation-based class about once a month. On New Year's Day, Infuse Yoga Spa in Lincoln Park is offering a donation-based class from 11 am-12:30pm. The cost is $18. A portion of the proceeds will go to Yoga Gives Back.

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