Sarahjoy founded the DAYA Foundation in April 2012.
“In the March of 2012, I found myself facing a crossroads. I was a month into a planned sabbatical from my board role with Living Yoga (my first non-profit) and the lease for my yoga studio (amrita: a sanctuary for yoga) was up for renegotiation. My bookkeeper and business manager had been trying for some time to shift the business structure of the studio to make it financially viable amidst the trends in the yoga industry. Primarily those trends were moving in directions I wasn’t going: more prevalence of hot yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, and a growing emphasis on a yoga culture that was becoming fiscally exclusive.
“The consistent advice to me was to close the studio, reduce overhead, find a smaller location, and focus on teaching private lessons and retreats. Yet, something stirred in me; and wouldn’t let me settle on this option.
“Four years prior, my own medical challenges (post-car accident hip surgeries, (click here to read more about that) put me on the edge of personal bankruptcy while trying to manage the costs of care and the impact of my circumstances on the studio. By the time of my second hip surgery, I was well accustomed to being a medical patient with a condition that I knew how to advocate for within the limitations of my medical insurance and my budget. Yet, this experience gave me a glimpse into something previously hidden from my own life (a life-changing, personally painful revelation): in our culture, when faced with a medical condition, we become very vulnerable if we don’t have the capacity to self-advocate, the community resources to lean on for support, a basic sense of personal worth, and the skills of distress tolerance, fear-management, and self-care to navigate our journey through the insurance/medical system, let alone the condition itself. When I brushed up against insurance red tape and financial despair due to rising medical bills, I was profoundly grateful for my yoga practice. I would never have gotten through these experiences without the tools of yoga. I mean this literally. I was also extremely fortunate that I was able to keep teaching yoga.
“My personal vulnerability also clearly demonstrated to me that without a change in business structure, to one supported by community investment, vision, sponsorship, and enthusiasm, if I were made financially vulnerable again, for any other reason, the studio would not be able to continue. This would devastate our ability to keep serving the wider community. As service has been a fundamental value behind all of our decisions and my life mission, this was a possibility that I made a personal commitment to prevent.
“So, here I was at the crossroads I mentioned a moment ago: I could either close the studio and just teach retreats and private lessons, or, I could revision the business structure behind the studio and create something sustained by community support and collaboration. The DAYA Foundation was born out of this. I knew I wanted to keep teaching yoga classes in a community setting (not just private practice). I knew I wanted to broaden the scope of my capacity to reach out to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to yoga, in addition to what I had been blessed to do within prisons. I recognized that the students in Living Yoga’s programs were unique because they lived in institutions, not because they had addiction, impulse control, or self-worth issues that escalated under stress. Much of our public health crisis stems from issues such as these. I also knew I wanted to broaden my ability to support people with medical conditions. I already offered medical discounts for private lessons and adaptive yoga classes, but my studio’s ability to support this population was limited to my capacity to do more with less.
“Essentially, I knew it was time to do the following things:
- Transition the studio to a community supported non-profit yoga therapy center.
- Offer training to other yoga teachers in the tools of yoga therapy.
- Offer training to allied health professionals in the tools of yoga therapy.
- Set up collaborative teams of practitioners and organizations.
- Respond to the many years of requests for volunteer/yoga outreach programs throughout the Northwest.
From here, the DAYA Foundation, with a vision to Deliver Accessible Yoga Alternatives, came into being.”
The DAYA Foundation is a non-profit yoga therapy center supporting Northwest communities. We deliver accessible yoga alternatives in the form of public and agency-based yoga classes, yoga therapy interventions for anxiety, depression and addiction, and adaptive yoga programs for those with medical conditions that require medically-sensitive yoga. We teach the tools that build each student’s essential life skills toolkit and that empower them to make a difference.
For the DAYA Foundation, Delivering Accessible Yoga Alternatives means making yoga physically, financially, culturally, and spiritually accessible. Fundamentally, the tools of yoga know no cultural, economic, social, religious, gender, education-level, cognitive, neurological, or age barriers. Every one of us deserves to access the tools that support us in developing our well-being, awakening our vibrancy, and moving beyond perceived limitations.
The DAYA Foundation vision is to:
- Deliver Accessible Yoga Alternatives to those challenged by the financial constraints of living on disability, overwhelmed by medical bills or health care costs, or those for whom a household budget can not readily include the costs of “regular” yoga classes.
- Deliver Accessible Yoga Alternatives to institutions, centers, organizations, or facilities that have the capacity to address the public health concerns of all of our community members. We partner with organizations to deliver these services to their community members. We’re particularly interested in those agencies that support the vulnerable, marginalized, isolated, or under-served members of our community.
- Deliver Accessible Yoga Alternatives to those struggling with addiction, anxiety, or depression.
- Deliver Accessible Yoga Alternatives by providing ongoing training for allied health professionals to study the arts of asana, pranayama, mindfulness, meditation and the psychology of yoga to incorporate into their existing professional practice. Being on the frontier of the field of yoga therapy, we will also endeavor to train qualified yoga teachers to integrate the tools of yoga therapy into their teaching or their private practice. Additionally, we’ll train laypersons who are interested in bringing yoga and yoga therapy to students via our outreach programs.
- We see ourselves as participating on the front line of an ever-growing social justice movement: the movement toward a socially just community in which all members have access to the life tools that would enable them to thrive.
The DAYA Foundation is founded on these essential principles:
- Yoga teaches fundamental life skills. These life skills transform our mental and physical health.
- These life skills make us better individuals, family members, and community members.
- All members of our community deserve access to the life-enhancing practices of yoga.
- All members of our community have something to teach us about life, human suffering, and human potential.
- When community is created, healing happens, for it re-knits our experience of belonging.
If you would like to learn about becoming a member of the DAYA Foundation Annual Sponsorship Program to ensure the ongoing delivery of accessible yoga alternatives, click here.