Yogis challenge residents to be kind for 40 days

Spreading kindness for joy and prizes

Lola Storry (left) and Rachel Sadava, co-owners of the Fernwood Yoga Den, are hoping to inspire all Victorians to act with kindness for 40 days.

Spreading kindness for joy and prizes

With the holidays encroaching, people can always use an extra helping of thoughtfulness, but performing acts of kindness this month can do more than stretch your comfort zone — it can also mean prizes.

In the spirit of recognizing World Kindness Day on Nov. 13, two Fernwood yogis are hosting a community-building partnership that challenges everyone to complete 40 Acts of Kindness in 40 Days, starting Nov. 12.

The mission stems from a similar initiative launched in Vancouver that asks participants to pair their acts of kindness for others with acts of kindness for one’s self — in the form of taking a daily yoga class or other self-serving practice.

Lola Storry and Rachel Sadava, co-owners of the Fernwood Yoga Den, have aligned their initiative perfectly: a report published last month by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing says the recession hasn’t only hurt the economy — it’s also damaged Canadians’ health. Stress about money and employment is prompting us to spend less on recreation, which, in turn, reduces our quality of life.

“This is especially troubling because Canadians have traditionally protected that part of their total household expenditures devoted to culture and recreation regardless of shifting economic times,” the report says. “It appears that, since the recession, Canadians are less able to do so.”

To join the 40-day challenge, participants can register at the Fernwood Yoga Den, then self-track daily kindness activities or share them via email or on the group’s Facebook and Twitter sites. Those who successfully complete the challenge will be entered in a draw to win community prizes, including tickets to the Belfry Theatre, a gift certificate to the Fernwood Inn, a gift certificate from Tonic Spa, a one-month pass to the Fernwood Yoga Den and a gift certificate for a massage from SOMA Wellness.

“It’s easy to ask ourselves when the last time is that we baked someone muffins or raked a neighbour’s yard,” says Storry. “What we don’t always realize is that generosity spills over — the more acts of kindness you do, the more they come back, three-fold.”

Canadian columnist Dianna Rinne believes kindness should be an everyday occurrence, and says it’s the simple things, like holding a door open, letting a mom with kids go ahead in the grocery line or stopping to aid someone with a broken-down car, that mean the most.

“Because [people] are perpetually in a hurry, perhaps they just don’t think of these things. But they should,” she wrote about this year’s World Kindness Day. “Time and time again, I’ve seen lines of bumper-to-bumper traffic roll along a street while others sit and wait to pull in … Then, the kindness factor hits some random driver and they stop to let a vehicle in … they have made someone’s day a little better.”

Storry, a former social worker, says she’s already thinking about ways to be kind, which will include working on her daily gratitude list (she recommends the smart phone app “Gratitude 365”), teaching special trauma-sensitive yoga classes, and spontaneously letting the day direct her into other kindnesses.

“What you do on the [yoga] mat really reflects off the mat,” she says. “In North American culture, we really try to push away negative emotions, but in yoga we ask ourselves, ‘How can I allow these feelings of crankiness or upset to be there, and not just want to get up and leave the room?’ Allowing yourself space to feel your emotions is an act of kindness in itself.”

The Yoga Den is offering free classes on Nov. 10 and 11, along with a new free/by donation weekly drop-in karma class (more at fernwoodyogaden.com).

“It’s so important that people have access to these resources, and we don’t want finances to be a barrier,” says Storry. “We want to make it clear, however, this initiative isn’t about coming to the Yoga Den, it’s about asking ourselves what we can do in our community.” M

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