Australia’s biggest yoga class poses for dignity

JESSICA MYLNE

Yoga4Dignity is putting on Australia’s biggest yoga class on Saturday August 31 to raise vital funds to help give some dignity back to homeless women and women living below the poverty line in Australia. 

Yoga4Dignity in the park

People are encouraged to take part in the Yoga4Dignity event at yoga studios, at home, online or even in local parks around Australia. Photo: Courtesy Share the Dignity

 

The Yoga4Dignity event is run by Share the Dignity, is a charity that aims to give dignity to women and girls experiencing homelessness, “period poverty” and domestic violence, through multiple community initiatives including drives to collect sanitary items and the installation of free sanitary product vending machines.

Since it was founded in 2015, the charity has distributed more than 750,000 sanitary items to women in need . 

Share the Dignity hopes that people across Australia will come together to practise yoga and raise funds and awareness through their Yoga4Dignity event.

Yoga studios around the country are taking part in the Yoga4Dignity event, and there is also a virtual class online for people who can’t get to a real time class.

Share the Dignity founder and managing director Rochelle Courtenay said the main goal of the Yoga4Dignity event was to fund the installation of more Dignity Vending Machines where they were needed most.

Share the Dignity’s Dignity Vending Machines that are installed at low-income schools, community centres, health centres and domestic violence centres around Australia.

The vending machines dispense a free ‘period pack’ so women who can’t afford sanitary products will still have access to them when needed. 

“We have vending machines in high schools where we know that girls were managing their periods by not going to school or leaving tampons in for days, and now that is just one less issue that they have to worry about,” Ms Courtenay said.

Each vending machine costs $10,000 to create and keep stocked for the life of the machine.

“We just don’t know how people are forced to deal with these kinds of things and having those vending machines installed allows women in those situations to deal with their period in the most dignified way that they can.”

Ms Courtenay said 2019 was the third year Share the Dignity would be hosting the Yoga4Dignity event and said she hoped to have 10,000 people take part across Australia, including people participating from their homes.

Yoga4Dignity with Janine Allis

Boost Joost founder Janine Allis has done a online yoga class for the Yoga4Dignity event, so anyone in Australia can participate. Photo: Courtesy Share the Dignity

 

“Janine Allis [Founder of Boost Juice] did a virtual class for us, so anyone in Australia can go on to the website, donate $20 and do it in their lounge room if that’s what fits in with their world,” Ms Courtenay said. 

“The idea was to have yoga instructors all over Australia donate an hour of their time and then we all go along and participate in a yoga class and downward dog and unite for women and girls that don’t have what we have – and that is the very basic of necessities to maintain our own dignity,” she said. 

Ms Courtenay said yoga instructors all over Australia donated their time for classes and the money raised by attendees helped Share the Dignity continue their work. 

“People can choose their closest yoga class and head along for an hour, stretch their body and be part of something that is bigger than them,” Ms Courtenay said.

“It’s really such a simple charity to help,” she said. 

Stretch Yoga Brisbane City and Holland Park owner PJ Wells is donating classes at her studios on Saturday August 31 for Yoga4Dignity for the second year in a row.

“Last year, across the two studios, we had about 30 or 35 students book in,” Ms Wells said. 

“So, hopefully this year, given that it’s been around for another year, we are hopefully going to get some more,” she said. 

“We’ve popped up a couple of classes and obviously if they book out we can add some more on the day.”

Yoga instructors donate their time for Yoga4Dignity

Yoga instructors donate their time for the Yoga4Dignity event to help charity Share the Dignity raise funds and increase awareness. Photo: Courtesy Share the Dignity

 

Ms Wells said Share the Dignity was an important charity to support because they did so much to help women in need. 

“It’s just a brilliant cause,” she said. 

“A lot of our students are women, we have a team of women here and it’s always just wonderful to be able to give back.”  

Ms Wells said no matter what your yoga skill level was, everyone was welcomed and encouraged to participate in the Yoga4Dignity classes to help Share the Dignity fund vital programs to help women and girls in need. 

“I think what make Stretch different from other yoga studios is how acknowledging we are of beginners,” she said. 

“A lot of people with these events might not have done yoga before, but they want to do it because it’s for a good cause and we are able to make everyone feel incredibly welcome, whether they’ve been doing yoga for years, or whether it is their very first class.”

Ms Courtenay said she started the charity after learning about how poor and homeless women were being forced to manage their menstrual period. 

“Share the Dignity started in 2015 when I read an article that talked about how many homeless women there were and how they were living without the very basic of essentials like [sanitary] pads and tampons.” 

Since then, Share the Dignity has grown into a national charity with more than 4000 volunteers. 

Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay

Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay hopes people around Australia will take part in the Yoga4Dignity event on August 31. Photo: Courtesy Share the Dignity

 

“I thought we were there just to help the 44,000 or so women who were experiencing homelessness, but there’s farming communities, there’s remote indigenous communities, there’s so much poverty,” Ms Courtenay said. 

“Poverty is on such a rise and it’s not abnormal in our community for women to be using socks and wadded up toilet paper to manage their period because they just can’t afford the basic of necessities,” she said. 

“I think there isn’t a woman in Australia who wouldn’t be empathetic towards another woman having to use socks in her underpants to manage her period.” 

Throughout August, Share the Dignity is also hosting a Drive for Dignity to collect sanity hygiene products to be distributed to those in need. 

“There are about 2000 collection points around Australia and about 1000 of those are [at] Woolworths stores,” Ms Courtenay said.

“If you head into your local Woolworths this month there will be a collection box,” she said.

“Just buy a pack of pads or tampons and we’ll make sure they get where they are needed.“

To find out more about Share the Dignity or how to get involved in the Yoga4Dignity event, please visit the website at www.sharethedignity.com.au

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