Good Life

Yoga instructor gives back to the community

Elizabeth Hay, who donates a portion of her class fees to charity, poses in her yoga studio in Port Matilda on December 11.
Elizabeth Hay, who donates a portion of her class fees to charity, poses in her yoga studio in Port Matilda on December 11.

For local yoga instructor Elizabeth Hay, it’s not just about teaching people movement, balancing postures and deep stretches.

The Port Matilda woman also wants to use her talents and passion to help those less fortunate.

“I’m really big on all businesses giving back to charity in some way,” said Hay, who teaches classes across the region. “I think that, as a society, we’ve started to ask ourselves, ‘yeah, that’s a great product, but what are you doing for the world?’ So, I do that through my yoga classes.”

A couple years ago, Hay set a goal of buying a well through the nonprofit Living Water International, which helps communities across the globe acquire clean water. By the end of the year she’d raised $5,000 — enough for Living Water International to build a well in Africa — through giving 10 percent of proceeds from her yoga classes to charity and also with some donation-only practices.

“Now, we try to go more local,” Hay said. “We do local charities. So, every month to six weeks locally we find a need, and we focus on that need. I give 10 percent from all my classes, and I have one donation class a week.”

Once a month, she holds a “Wine and Unwind” event where she teaches yoga for free. People bring donations, and all that money goes to charity.

“We make about $300 to $500 in donations every six weeks. It’s been really inspiring to see changes being made, and even though (it) doesn’t sound like a lot, at least we’re doing something. We’ve been able to help a local woman with her adoption fees, we’ve given back to the service bureau,” she said.

In November, the studio donated to the State College Food Bank, raising $150 and providing 50 pounds of canned goods. The studio just wrapped up its latest fundraising effort — $175 for a needy Centre County family with 13 children. It was enough to buy 26 presents and gas cards, which Hay and some of her students presented on Christmas Eve.

“It’s been a really nice journey. It’s fun to get people involved. I ask my students if they know of a need, and we’ll help them,” Hay said.

Charity isn’t easy, but Hay and company are determined to keep at it. Additionally, Hay offers different kinds of yoga classes for athletes, dancers, etc.

“It’s been a migration for me. Yoga is a combination of the breathing, the meditation and the movement,” she said. “For me, I’m a Christian, and the meditation was a lot about prayer. So, I got my training through Holy Yoga. I thought, ‘I’m going to teach Christian Yoga,’ but I’ve kind of just gone into making yoga for everybody and the science behind yoga. I’ve seen a lot of students come from a place where they can’t even move and then become really healed by yoga. I think it’s for everybody.”

Hay, who has been teaching for four years, said she feels truly blessed to be able to help out where she can by doing what she loves.

There’s a lot we’ve been able to do, and we’re going to continue to look for needs locally to be able to be a blessing to them.

Elizabeth Hay

“We were able to help out Hearts for the Homeless. They’re a great organization. We were able to give them money to buy bus tokens to hand out to homeless people so they can get to job interviews and such,” she said. “There’s a lot we’ve been able to do, and we’re going to continue to look for needs locally to be able to be a blessing to them.”

While Hay has become a pro at yoga, she hasn’t actually been practicing the ancient art for very long.

“I first discovered yoga about five years ago, just after I had my twins,” she said. “I had been a dancer for many years, and I thought yoga was going to be too boring. But, I took my first yoga class and I really enjoyed it, so becoming an instructor was super easy for me.”

Hay’s passion for yoga keeps her in seemingly constant motion around the community. Her classes take place all over Happy Valley.

“I teach all over the area,” she said. “I have a studio in my home in the mountains of Port Matilda, so a lot of people locally come out here. I teach in town at the Movement Arts Studio behind Saint’s Cafe. I have two classes a week there. I also teach at Innovation Park. I have two classes a week that I do for the employees of Innovation Park, but it’s more of an ‘anyone can come’ sort of thing. I also teach at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, where I do my donation-only class every Tuesday.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, Hay keeps herself very busy when she’s not in the classroom.

“I’m a mother of five,” she said. “I have three boys and twin girls. I keep busy with that. My husband owns an engineering firm in town, and I help him with that. I also own an online store. I’m fulfilled with everything I do. If I wasn’t teaching yoga, those things would fill up my plate for sure. Yoga keeps you healthy, luckily.”

Hay said she thinks everyone should try yoga, and she had some key advice for first timers.

“You should take three classes,” she said. “Yoga is all about discovery. It’s about getting to know your body and heal your body. Don’t have any expectations. Don’t go into it expecting to be the best Yogi. It’s not about the pose, it’s about discovering your health and your body so you can be healthy for life.”

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