Action Alert: How one woman is using yoga to support a good cause

A series where we highlight people using their passions to make a difference in their communities.

Once a month on Saturday evenings, yoga students walk into a dimly lit studio at The People’s Yoga in Portland, Oregon. They bring with them their mats, their water, and a desire to give back.

They drop however many dollars they can into a donation jar set out on a table with brochures from NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Then they assume child’s pose while a meditative guitar plays in the background.

The donation-based yoga class is taught by Melina Donalson, a former costume and fashion designer who turned to yoga almost two decades ago to calm her mind amidst the fast-paced life in Los Angeles.


Melina welcoming students outside the The People’s Yoga on Killingsworth street in Portland, Oregon.

“I was totally burned out on all the ego and materialism in that world,” she says. “I was just too sensitive for it.”

While in California, Melina would teach yoga to friends in exchange for food, books, or anything else they felt like offering. When she moved to Portland in 2009, she knew she wanted to continue giving through teaching.

“The years of practicing have really helped me be kind to people and react in mindful ways to the world around me,” she says. “It’s an important part of yoga philosophy to be of service.”

Melina’s dad lives with a mental illness. Every other month she sends a check to NAMI as her small way of helping the cause. Sometimes it’s $30. Other times it’s a few hundred dollars. Grateful for the personal touch of support, the organization sends her a thank you letter each time, no matter the donation.

For Melina, everything seemed to fall into place once she knew what she wanted to do.

“It’s almost effortless,” she says. “It takes emails, it takes organizing, it takes being present and showing up.”

By creating a welcoming environment, she also hopes the class helps students who might be new to yoga and are nervous or afraid.

“It’s a beautiful feeling to see people leave class so relaxed. They feel good and they know where their donation is going,” she says. “That’s my whole intention with that class. To make people feel good.”


Want to use your yoga skills for good? Melina would happily answer questions about everything from getting in contact with the right people to staying encouraged. Reach her at

Do you know someone who is taking a small step toward making their community better? Email

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Today’s random picks: From blog design in Ghana to market analysis in Guatemala


From One Laptop per Child (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Every day, hundreds of new listings are added to our site. Here’s a small sampling of the types of organizations, opportunities, and events you can connect with.

Today’s areas of focus: Claims and Examining, and Communications Access and Infrastructure

Organization: AMVETS (American Veterans)
Location: Lanham, Maryland, United States
In their own words: “AMVETS is one of the most respected volunteer-led organizations in the country that provides, not only support for veterans and the active military in porcuring their earned entitlements, but also community services that enhance the quality of life for this nation’s citizens.”

Job: Billing Assistant
Organization: Shema Kolainu
In their own words: “Shema Kolainu is a nonprofit school and center for children with autism utilizing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) on a one child to one teacher ratio.”

Volunteer Opportunity: Blog designer & social networking sites coordinator
Organization: Free World Foundation
In their own words: “The vision of the “FOUNDATION” is to strive for a society where the fundamental human rights of every individual are respected, where the rule of law reigns supreme, good governance is guaranteed and adequate measures are put in place to ensure security & peace building.”

Internship: Market Analyst Internship-GUATEMALA
Organization: Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG)
In their own words: “Through a combination of business incubation, education, training, and outreach, the AIDG helps individuals and communities gain access to technology that will improve their lives.”

Event: Donation-based lunchtime yoga benefitting microfinance
Organization: ACCION USA
In their own words: “Come and join us at our New York office for Micro-Yoga every Tuesday, presented by Erica Dorn, trained yoga instructor and ACCION USA employee!”

Search hundreds of other listings filed under Claims and Examining or Communications Access and Infrastructure, or post an opportunity of your own.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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