Yogahood Australia is a non-profit organisation that brings the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of yoga to at-risk and underserved communities in Australia. YH does engaging work and we are proud to have them on board as partners for ROY's Yoga Teacher Training Scholarship Programs. Their post-training on-ground support are an extension to the teacher training program and provides valuable mentorship for ROY's scholarship graduates. Our partnership is tribute towards creating opportunities for yoga to be utilised as a tangible support for the wider community.
Get into the mindset of the great women behind this powerful initiative, YH directors Madeleine La Ferla (MLF) and Lisa Matthews (LM).
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
MLF : Contributing positively to the lives of others has always been important to me ever since I was a small girl. When I experienced the healing and transformational power of yoga in my own life I knew it was something I wanted to share with others. The great thing about yoga is that it offers so many benefits and you don't need a special space to do it, certain clothes or even any props or equipment. Yet it is still largely inaccessible to many parts of our community here in Australia. I founded Yogahood with the mission to provide free yoga classes to at-risk and underserved men, women, and youth so they too can experience the many benefits that come from the practice of yoga.
LM : I see my role at Yogahood as a natural progression of my evolution and growth. Through my own healing and transformation, the wounds I bore as part of my own personal journey cease to weigh me down. I find I now have more energy available to stream outwards to serve a wider community. At this point in my life I’m in a conscious loving relationship with a beautiful man who both adores me and receives my love, I’ve had the honour and privilege of birthing and guiding two incredible young sons, who continue to delight and inspire me. I’ve given my love, my care, my time and attention to yoga students for many years. Literally it was a ‘What now?”. There is so much to do and yoga is such a practical, accessible, yet powerful tool to reach so many.
MANY PEOPLE SHARE THE SAME SENTIMENTS, WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO ACTUALLY TAKE ACTION, WAS THERE A PIVOTAL MOMENT?
MLF : When the idea of Yogahood first came about five years ago, the single biggest challenge I faced at the time was myself... all that internal dialogue telling me that I wasn't enough to do this, that I didn't know enough, or I didn't have enough. Speak to anyone contemplating a major life change or a new venture - fear-driven garble arises that can stop us from taking action. In the end you eventually have to get out of your own way. You owe it not only to yourself, but the world around you to take that step.
LM : I did experience for many years a great deal of what I would call ‘vocational angst’, a need to contribute, to make a difference. My husband John encouraged me to always ‘follow my bliss’. I do remember clearly walking in the woods with my dogs one day feeling deeply connected to nature, attuned to the pulse of life and open to love. From deep within a sincere longing arose, “How can I serve?”. I knew I had more to offer. Then it was a matter of being open to the signposts on the path and listening in. When the invitation came to join Madeleine as Co-Director of Yogahood Australia, it seemed the most organic and aligned way forward. I see it as utilising the skills I had acquired along the way to extend yoga reach’s beyond the privilege of the communities I teach and live in to those not so fortunate in their circumstances.
THE PROBLEMS IN OUR SOCIETIES CAN BE OVERWHELMING, THEY DEFINATELY SEEM ENDLESS ENOUGH TO TURN A BLIND EYE. THEN THERE IS THE CYCLICAL NATURE OF EXISTENCE, THE FOUR YUGAS SPOKEN OF IN YOGA AND HOW THE END, WITH DESTRUCTION AND DARKNESS, IS UNAVOIDABLE.
WHAT IF YOU WERE TOLD THAT ALL THIS WORK WOULDN'T MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
MLF : We are regularly asked why we would focus on providing yoga when the communities we serve need housing, food safety, job security, education, etc. There is still the belief that yoga is a "luxury" for the wealthy to merely stay toned and flexible. Through our work, we are expanding people's understanding of yoga and the physical, mental and emotional benefits it can provide to the wider community. While there may always be darkness, negativity, challenges, and destruction, it should never stop us from doing something, even small, that positively contributes to the lives of others. And that small thing for us is giving people the opportunity to experience the benefits of yoga. Science and experience continues to show us that it can make a real difference to people's lives and we are on a mission to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
LM : I simply cannot bring myself to believe that love will be conquered by fear and hate. I believe love is the greatest force in the universe. This was not always the case. I understand the doom and gloom mentality as I’ve also experienced despair, aloneness and hopelessness. Yet as we take responsibility to raise our own individual vibration by transcending our own fears, judgments and limitations - by embracing forgiveness of ourselves and others, the collective vibration gathers momentum. Our thoughts, words and actions make a difference on a larger scale than we can imagine. Dr Jane Goodall said “What you do does make a difference in this world. You have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make”. If through our Yogahood programs one word, movement or breath lands and ignites a flame of curiosity, acceptance or recognition in a student, then it‘s absolutely worth the effort.
EVERY INTERACTION IS A TWO-WAY STREET, EVEN WHEN IT IS CALLED 'GIVING'. WHATS IN IT FOR YOU, WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF ALL THIS?
MLF : I couldn't agree more. Every action we take has an effect - on those around us and especially on ourselves. I get to go to bed each night knowing that I am living my truth, being of service in a way that aligns with my core values, and using the skills, tools and resources I have to contribute to something greater than myself.
LM : The more I experience myself as pure love, as intrinsically good and worthy, the more love I have to give and allow to flow through me. Its source is infinite. The more I give from an open heart, the greater abundance and fulfillment that flows back.
THREE WISHES, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
MLF : That we can all experience the peace we are searching for.
LM : That we would listen to, acknowledge and adhere to the wisdom of the indigenous cultures who lived in harmony with nature to restore our relationship to the earth – its oceans, forests, air, food and water sources.
That our beautiful animals be treated with love and respect, kindness and compassion as fellow sentient beings.
That our hearts be healed and love, peace and unity prevail.
You can get involved in Yogahood Australia and make a difference. Visit www.yogahood.org.au to learn more.