Transforming lives through yoga

Local teachers raise money for classes in prisons

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Beth Campagna, a teacher at Rushing Water Yoga, in downtown Camas, is participating in a "yogathon" for the first time this year. The fund raiser for the "Living Yoga" program will generate financial support to teach yoga in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and transitional facilities.

The owner of Rushing Water Yoga, of Camas, and several of the studio’s other teachers are among the participants in this year’s “Yogathon,” to raise money for the “Living Yoga” program.

The non-profit outreach program teaches yoga as a tool for personal change in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and transitional facilities. Classes are held at more than 15 sites, including Columbia River Correctional Institution, DePaul Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers for adults and teens, the Oregon State Penitentiary and Raphael House of Portland.

The participants from Rushing Water are among the 15 teams taking part in this year’s fund raiser.

“The studio is involved in the yogathon as part of our larger effort to make a connection between our yoga practices and supporting our community,” said Rushing Water owner and team chair Paul Cheek. “We have food drives for the Inter-Faith Treasure House every 12 weeks to support families in East Clark County, and we offer up to three benefit classes for the YWCA’s SafeChoice program every year.

“I consider it my responsibility to provide these options to the students and teachers of Rushing Water Yoga as a way to give back to our community,” he added. “Life is about selfless service and giving back. Living Yoga provides the great gift of yoga in under served communities for free. This is in the spirit of the practices of yoga in general and helps build a healthier community on all levels.”

Individuals can participate in the yogathon by raising pledges to support Living Yoga. The yogathon, which began Friday, will continue through June 10. Participants set goals for the number of classes they want to complete during the two-month event.

In addition to a registration goody bag, individuals will have opportunities to receive yogathon T-shirts and prizes.

Emily Oliva, a teacher at Rushing Water, helped organize last year’s yogathon. That event raised close to $20,000, among all of the teams. This year, Oliva is serving as the chair of the yogathon committee.

As a volunteer, she has taught yoga classes to individuals in Lifelines — a 28-day in-house rehabilitation program in Vancouver.

“I have seen firsthand how yoga can benefit people going through a tough time,” Oliva said. “In my classes, we work the muscles hard, using strength and stability as a theme. We also spend time bringing the attention inward and trying to cultivate a more still and peaceful mind. For these folks going through a difficult time in their lives — detox, being away from family and who knows what else — this really helped. Most classes ended in applause and many thanks from the students — most of whom had never practiced yoga before.

“I truly believe in the transformational effect that practicing yoga brings,” she added. “When you really consider how each life can be touched by Living Yoga’s programs and how that effect ripples out into society, it is hard to not get involved.”

Living Yoga was founded in 1998 by Sarahjoy Marsh, of Portland. At that time, its purpose was to provide yoga classes to help individuals deal with stress, tension, addiction and anxiety.

Beth Campagna, a yoga teacher at Rushing Water, is participating in the yogathon for the first time.

She represented the local team at the April 9 event kickoff, in Portland.

“I believe in the mission of Living Yoga — teaching yoga as a tool for personal change to people who would not otherwise have access to it,” Campagna said. “As was told by a former inmate and student of Living Yoga at the kickoff, through the caring teachers who teach yoga at a correction facility, bringing yoga into her life was a transforming experience for her.”

Rushing Water Yoga is located at 417 N.E. Birch St. For more information, call 834-5994, email or visit