Playtimes June 2015 - page 28

n Hong Kong and around the world,
more and more people are practising
yoga. From the physical benefits –
including increased flexibility, balance,
strength and coordination – to the mental
benefits – like the calming, restorative
effects on the mind – yoga helps us feel
uplifted, thanks to its downward dogs.
But taking yoga classes is expensive
in Hong Kong. What about all the
people who aren’t fortunate enough to
be able to pay?
Who they are
Yogananth Andiappan, founder and
director of Anahata Yoga in Central,
is well known and highly regarded for
his lifetime of learning and teaching.
Inspired by Yogananth’s compassion
and wisdom, a group of Anahata’s
International Yoga Academy graduates
established a programme in 2010 to
share free yoga classes with the local
community – especially those with
special needs or circumstances, or who
couldn’t afford classes. The result was
Andiappan Yoga Community (AYC),
a non-profit, volunteer organisation of
certified instructors committed to sharing
their experience to serve the wider
community, whilst also developing their
own teaching skills.
AYC was rejuvenated last year
after Foster Barnes became volunteer
coordinator, tasked with reorganising,
centralising and expanding the group’s
efforts. The number of active volunteer
teachers increased to around 50,
offering about a dozen ongoing classes.
How they help
Those helped range from breast cancer
sufferers (via Anahata Yoga and Tuen
Mun Hospital), people living with HIV
(via the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation) to
at-risk youths (via the Youth Outreach
School of Hip Hop). Other organisations
fortunate enough to feel the positive
power of AYC yoga are Changing Young
Lives, Mother's Choice, St. Anne's Filipino
Catholic Group and Tung Wah Group
of Hospitals Jockey Club Tai Kok Tsui
Integrated Services Centre (for socio-
economically disadvantaged women).
Most classes are completely free, while
a small number charge a nominal fee.
Most AYC members also assist in the
popular overseas workers’ community
programme in Central and TST – which
often see upwards of 200 weekly
participants – fronted by yogi Louise Vas.
“As I deepened my own yoga
practice – and saw how I improved
physically, mentally and spiritually – I
realised that I wanted to share yoga
with more people, especially with
those who have limited resources,” says
Louise. “Domestic helpers work tirelessly
day in and day out. If they could have
a little time dedicated for themselves
to do yoga, they would feel alive,
refreshed and inspired when they go
back to work.”
Rose, one of the first helpers to
attend, says, “Just after the class, I feel
very light and alive! I really want to learn
more about yoga.” Another helper, Beth,
notes, “At first, I thought yoga is only
for young people, but after this class I
realised that this is really for everyone!”
In addition to reaching out with
yoga classes, letting those in need
de-stress and stretch, AYC has
raised funds and awareness for
several causes, including Animals
Asia, Greenpeace, and victims of
Fukushima’s 2011 earthquake and the
Philippines’ 2013 typhoon.
What can you do?
To reach out from the heart and share
the positive power of yoga, assist AYC
by donating yoga mats or sponsoring
underprivileged students with yoga
teacher training scholarships. Volunteers
are always seeking free or low-cost
class venues. To learn more, email
Foster at
Equally, contact him if you’re aware
of a charity or organisation that could
benefit from the AYC’s help. Visit
, or keep
up with AYC events and programmes
on Facebook:
Andiappan Yoga Community
wants to help the community the
best way they know how – through
yoga, writes
Gillian Johnston
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