Yoga studio instills ‘do good’ spirit

BY HELAINA N. HOVITZ  |  Living in New York City, it’s easy to get caught up in, well, everything. Often, it feels like there is barely time to take care of one’s self, let alone think about doing something to help others.

Luckily, “DO GOOD” month at I.AM.YOU, a yoga studio at 132 Mulberry St., is dedicating four weeks to helping their students help others.

During the first week in March, students gave “their energy” and dedicated their thoughts to someone other than themselves in their weekly classes. According to studio owner Lauren Imparato, it’s been scientifically proven that praying for someone who is sick makes a marked difference in their recovery, in that they can “feel your thoughts.” Last week, students brought in clothing to donate to the Bowery Rescue Mission. This week, students will bring in both canned and prepared food to distribute at various homeless shelters.

Imparato was recently inspired to create “DO GOOD” month after attending the private, invite-only “Escape For Good” in Arizona, where professional athletes inlcuding Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Andre Aggasii, Mia Hamm, and Tony Hawk each taught a class to raise money for charity, devoting their time to do good without technically “getting anything” in return.

Imparato recalled that at the retreat, Muhammad Ali said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

“It’s easy to write a check, but when giving comes from inside of you, its effects are exponentially bigger,” said Imparato. “In yoga philosophy, we believe that if you do something with proper intention, you plant the seed for more to grow.”

Bethany Leigh is a 22-year-old yoga instructor and a student at I.AM.YOU. She said “DO GOOD” month has inspired her to think more about the smaller ways she can be of service to others.

“We don’t realize how many different ways we can give, simple things like smiling at a stranger, donating clothes, or helping a friend’s little brother with his homework,” said Leigh.

The final “DO GOOD” week in March will focus on “giving time.” The studio is currently arranging various volunteer opportunities for their students, the goal being that the students carry the concept with them into April, which is National Volunteer Month.

“I’m already planning which organizations I’ll help out next month,” said Leigh. “I’ve been sorting through boxes of clothes and books that I can’t wait to donate.”

In addition to the themed weekly efforts of “DO GOOD” month, I.AM.YOU has also donated $2,000 worth of instruction to various charities and organizations.

“Yoga is not just a physical workout, it’s also a mindset,” said I.AM.YOU student Alison Urkowitz, 33. “You must be good to yourself and to others.”

Urkowitz is also Vice President of Research Operations at the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and helped Imparato host a fundraiser at the studio called Posing for Parkinsons. It raised nearly $12,000 for the foundation in 2010 and 2011.

“When we break down what yoga means, it’s essentially ‘union with ourselves and with others,” said Leigh. “When you take care of yourself, you can extend your spirit to those around you to help take care of others in need.”