Donate your old yoga mat to Haiti


This sign, spotted by James Fallows of the Atlantic in the Marina district of San Francisco, reminds me of that scene in Clueless where Alicia Silverstone donates her skis to the Pismo Beach Disaster.

(via @1bobcohn)


  1. Just like skis would probably make a handy make-shift shelf on which to place provisions for those without shelves

    1. I guess if the only two options are sleeping on the ground in a tropical country or sleeping on the sweaty refuse of the petite bourgeoisie from a foriegn land that has done much harm but apparently means well, then I would sleep soundly on the ground.

      But who ever said those are the only two options?

  2. This is a good idea. I also have a small Kate Spade tote for my Chihuahua, Mr. sparkles. I just upgraded to a Fendi, so I’m sure Mr. Sparkles would like the Haitians to have it.

    We need to help these poor people, don’t we Mr. Sparkles?

  3. BTW, I joke above, but people in need can use ANYTHING. They are the ultimate makers. I remember going on a humanitarian aid drop in rural Afghanistan and watching the locals cheerfully carting away the wood from the pallets the HA came on. They even rerolled the shrink-wrap and took it home. It didn’t occur to us that what we would consider trash, they would consider valuable building materials.

    Later, we would drive through town and see the pallets and shrink-wrap incorporated in on and surprising ways into their homes.

    So Yoga mats? Valuable– even if nobody will ever do the backwards facing dog on them ever again.

    1. Sending a yoga mat is a good idea only if there is cargo space to get it there that wouldn’t be better used on more helpful cargo, as well as staff to distrubute them that wouldn’t be better used distributing more critical items.

      This really strikes me as a feel good waste of time.

  4. Basically all a yoga mat is going to do for someone in Haiti is provide a barrier between the person and the ground. I can’t see where a mat that thin would provide comfort. Maybe if they put 4 or 5 mats on top of each other they would be comfortable, but one? If they do provide some measure of comfort, then send them – but how would we know? They could just be more trash to be removed from the disaster area.

  5. How about your old squash racquets for pasta strainers? Also, yoga mats can be cut up for makeshift chips for poker.

  6. i’m just curious, what would it have taken for the person that took this picture to stick his head in the door and ask what the mats would be used for?

  7. When going camping I use an insulating mat that is thinner than a yoga mat. I have never slept on a yoga mat of course but my guess is that it quite soft. Kudos to The Pad if this is something the Haitians need.

    1. mskogly, have you also put a sleeping bag on top of that mat? Yoga mats are generally less than an inch thick. I’ve laid on mine on a hardwood floor, and let me tell you, it is uncomfortable. We could get into the “they should be thankful for anything they can get”, but how human is that argument? TBH, we [i]should[/i] send pallets of Kotex and whatever other female hygiene product we can – chances are there are a lot of women having periods and having to use whatever happens to be on hand to deal with it – a demoralizing way of having to deal with a bodily function that is uniquely female, besides the fact that the resourceful people of Haiti may find other uses for any surplus pads.

      In response to Dragonflye, yes, they should be collecting feminine hygiene products for distribution. I remember the absurdity of seeing MTV promote getting things like this to New Orleans after the flood, and seeing the hip-hop group Salt ‘n Pepa talk about how they were sending makeup, hair products and simple jewelry to women in N.O. – their excuse was “in any situation, women like to feel pretty”.

      If I were on the receiving end of those products rather than the many items on the list of “things we desperately need”, I would be offended, hurt and would question the sanity of anyone who thought my hair and makeup were something I would think about while trying to find missing family members, get off a roof I was trapped on and living in the hell that was the Superdome.

      1. Yoga mats are generally less than an inch thick.

        I have the fattest mat on the market, and it’s 1/4 inch thick.

      2. This used to be on Banksy’s website – I’m not sure it is entirely appropriate in this situation, but it makes one think:

        An extract from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

        I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywhere, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen. It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance…

        One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diptheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing would save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit because they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference. Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand proping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentary which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated. It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tatooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

  8. Yes you can sleep on a yoga mat, but this is totally wasteful. Aid organizations need your money to buy real supplies in bulk as they are needed. They don’t need the extra work of sorting through a shipment of a few dozen random yoga mats from San Francisco. If you really want your old mat to help someone, swing by a homeless camp under the freeway in your own city.

    Coffee for soldiers, on the other hand, is a good idea. It improves morale.

    1. seconded.

      half the ergs expended in disaster relief are acquiring assets. the other half is disseminating those assets. if you endow relief organizations with the most liquid of assets (cash), your aid is considerably more efficiently delivered, and stands to affect the situation much more directly.

  9. The major charities want money so they can buy what’s needed, not stuff that they’ll have to evaluate, then ship, store, or sell.

  10. I can’t believe no one made a snarky comment about the yoga place being called “The Pad.”

    Here’s a thought:

    Why doesn’t this place collect cartons of Always and Kotext to send down there instead? Probably just as useful as used yoga mats…

  11. “feel good waste of time.”

    Ditto, do not need to be clogging infrastructure with miscellaneous crap coming in from every direction.

    Though, a yoga mat might prove useful, this is not the right time to be sending one through.

  12. Although it could be that they are turning around and selling these used mats to other yoga people and using the money earned from the enterprise to support relief efforts.

  13. All of you have missed the true intention of the sign. The evil Dr. Mantra is collecting these yoga mats infused with Bourgeois Ennui, Beneficient Spiritual Intentions hamstrung (often literally) by muscle cramps and misguided Yonish Energies (mostly directed towards Kenneth, the gorgeous yoga teacher who levitates for the other team (sorry ladies)). With these he will fuel his Atom-Smashing Mandala and, dare we say, rule the world…

    So give cash to Red Cross and thwart his plans.

  14. Well, beyond the obvious logistical challenges of having to sort/ship/distribute old yoga mats, I’m kind of skeeved out by the idea at all — somebody’s old yoga mat? You mean, a mat that their bare feet sweated on? Where have they been storing it? I know maybe low-level hygiene is the last thing a homeless Haitian sleeping on the ground is worrying about, but honestly. There’s a reason why many charitable organizations, when soliciting donations of actual things, ask for new, or if at all, gently so, donations only. Clothes are easier to sanitize by bulk, so used clothes are often less of a problem.

    You’d probably do better just taking the cost of a new yoga mat and donating that. The organizations almost certainly have better resources to find and distribute a useful and cheap sleeping mat.

    1. I’m kind of skeeved out by the idea at all — somebody’s old yoga mat?

      Communal yoga mats are one of the big vectors for Methcillin Resistant Staph.

  15. What is the purpose of donating? To satisfy moral/religious obligations? To impress others? To assuage guilt? To feel useful? To reinforce a personal identity? To advance a political cause? To help others?

    We all claim that our sole desire is the last, but we’re all lying to ourselves and others. That’s not to say donating is bad or a waste of time. In fact, it’s an important obligation that we all have as first-worlders. But it’s important to examine what’s motivating us, and consider carefully if that’s really the force we want to be guiding our efforts.

  16. A friend of mine organized a shoe collection for Haiti through her Facebook account and I just thought that was so cool. Not because the shoes were going to make a positive difference to anyone in Haiti necessarily, but because it gave our little circle of friends an opportunity to organize and connect over a common cause. Figuring out how to reach out to our friends to pool resources and intentions and apply them toward making a positive difference is a good thing. :)

  17. If The Pad really has access to airplanes and logistics folks whereby they can get bedding to Haiti, why not take up a collection to get actual useful bedding to Haiti. If you want to help, then really help, don’t just use it as an opportunity to get rid of some old crap you don’t want and get yourself something nice and new and think you’re helping. If you have the wherewithal to even HAVE an “old” yoga mat, then you have the wherewithal to donate some actual money. Like maybe the price of a new yoga mat and you keep on using the old one a while longer, y’know?

    1. If you have the wherewithal to even HAVE an “old” yoga mat, then you have the wherewithal to donate some actual money.

      That’s massively fallacious. I have several old yoga mats and yet I’m in the process, at age 52, of cashing out my IRA (and paying 45% in taxes and penalties) so that I can pay off the credit cards that I used for rent and food in the several years when I made less than $10K. Hell, I could even send a nice Barcelona Chair to Haiti, because possessions are financially worthless in an economy where nobody has the money to buy them.

  18. Read story of cornmeal (maize) being sent to Britain as food relief during WWII. Wasn’t something Brits ate so it was not appreciated. Was politely declined or somesuch.

  19. Trust me. Those sweaty yoga mats, smelly shoes, ratty blankets, etc are all going to end up in land-fill. No aid org I’ve ever worked for will fork-out the money, time or vols to sort through that crap, however well intentioned. They can’t even land all the planes in Port-au-Prince. Efficient logistical capacity is in short supply and must be spent on more important aid.

    I would say that if it makes you feel better then no harm done. But it still costs the Red Cross thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars to dispose of it all.

  20. It’s always possible that the studio’s plan is to use the donated mats in their studio and donate the savings to Haiti.

    But yeah, then again, yoga mats could be pretty useful in Haiti – they’re usually easy to sterilize, too, so there’s really no worry about sleeping on someone’s sweaty old mat. Not to mention that due to the durable nature of mats and the level of yoga attrition, most donated mats are probably going to be in perfectly good condition.

    Also, add me to the chorus of people who think sleeping on a yoga mat is better than sleeping on the ground. I sleep on mine in the hottest part of the summer, and it’s definitely better than the floor.

  21. Clarification from The Pad Studios: Im only sorry the intention of this yoga mat drive was unclear. Actually, our drive was a part of a bigger organized effort spear headed by the founder of JADE yoga mat, during the weekend of the annual San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference. JADE asked studio owners, teachers, students alike to give up their old or used mats to be sent to the hospitals in Haiti so that the thousands of suffering people in Haiti may have somewhere more comfortable to sleep.

    May we all contribute in one way or another to help ease the tremendous suffering that continues in Haiti.

  22. Also, a yoga mat costs like $15 at Target. Classes can sometimes be expensive, but most major cities have a studio or two that has cheaper ones. Most of the studios I know here in New York even have a few free or “pay what you can” classes every week. Also, don’t most gyms and YMCA’s have yoga classes nowadays?

  23. If I were on the receiving end of those products rather than the many items on the list of “things we desperately need”, I would be offended, hurt and would question the sanity of anyone who thought my hair and makeup were something I would think about while trying to find missing family members, get off a roof I was trapped on and living in the hell that was the Superdome.

    I’m from New Orleans. I wasn’t there during Katrina, but a lot of my family and friends were.

    At my first Thanksgiving back home, just about everybody I talked to mentioned that all they really wanted, during the weeks of uncertainty, was a clean change of clothes that fit them and were what they would normally wear.

    Of course, Haiti is a different story – they’re really not at the level yet where you can send in a shipment of comfort items, they need emergency relief supplies.

    But I don’t think it’s evil to suggest that people have needs beyond the physical. Not that I think it’s intelligent to suggest that this studio is soliciting yoga mats so that Haitians can take up Vinyasa.

  24. Ha! That place knows PR. When “The Pad” was opening up last year one of the principals handed me a flyer while I was doing yoga in ANOTHER GYM.

  25. Yoga mats are quite heavy for the amount of padding they provide; an 1/8″ yoga mat can weigh 2-3 times what my 3/4″ camping mat weighs. Shipping costs just within the USA are so high that most people spend time seeking them out locally rather than buying online. I can only wonder who at “The Pad” is going planning on paying to ship these things across the world.

  26. I can think of two very specific things that are worse than misguided charity. One is the absence of charitable feelings in the first place.

    The other is mocking someone’s charitable good intentions.

    1. I disagree. Charitable intentions are nice enough, but it’s a bit selfish to expect some kind of praise for your intentions– especially when those intentions belie a sense of privilege and a disconnect from the realities of the very thing you intend to be charitable about.

      Mocking, in that case, is very much in order because the level of ignorance needed is something that could be quickly solved with a little searching. For instance, a google search or a phone call to a disaster relief organization.

  27. Are you kidding me? CASH you cheap spoiled SF yoga idiots. CASH is what the people need. If you can afford to live in SF, you can afford to send $10 or $20 via a reputable charity. Harder to give up money than trash yes, but way more effective.

  28. I’ve been filling sandbags for over two weeks already. Just about ready for the airlift. Please help Sandbags for Haiti.

  29. So they responded with “softer place to sleep”? Give me a break, the centimeter thick foam pad will do @#$@. How about you each donate $5.00. will do a lot more than your retarded old mats that smell like feet and butt.

  30. We really need to get past this notion that “Every little bit helps” and “Anything is better than nothing.” This is not strictly true. Forcing the Red Cross to allocate personnel to dealing with your unsolicited cast-offs is worse than doing nothing. Those little bits don’t help.

    Meaning well is not the same as doing good. Donating useless goods is only precious if you’re 8 years old. Your feelings of charity AREN’T what matters–your useful acts of charity are.

  31. I agree that the mats themselves are unhelpful because a.) they cost too much to ship b.) they have to be stored some where c.) they may not provide the solution that a more locally available product does and c.) they require more human resources to account for and distribute.

    However, when I first saw this image I assumed the mats would be re-sold for donation money?

  32. I think yall are missin the point…

    It’s gross to spend more money then it’s worth to ship some hippies old beat up yoga mat half way around the world, and hand it to a starving little kid who had been praying for penicillin and clean water that the shipping costs for the mat could have paid for.

    Just donate some dollars to a reputable charity.


  33. USPS is not accepting shipments from individuals or local organizations due to the logistics challenges in Haiti.

    Now what?

  34. the store has been told and this is their reply:
    We at The Pad studios would like to respond to the many comments which have appeared in the blogosphere regarding our choice to participate in the yoga mat drive sponsored by JADE to send used mats to Haiti to be used for bedding in the overcrowded hospitals. We felt that by collecting and sending yoga mats to Port Au Prince we were giving the people in need a more dignified place to sleep, an option just a little better than the ground.
    We are intimately familiar with the many cynical remarks which have been made and we will agree that there is value in some of the remarks made. As a direct response to the comments which suggest cash donations, we would like you to know that we make charitable contributions on a monthly basis. Last month we contributed $3,200 to fund the education fo 15 students in Ahmedabad City, India. This month, we will donate 100% earnings from one full day of classes to Haiti. We accept your opinion, whatever it may be. Please trust that our actions originate from a place of true care and compassion. If it makes you feel better we are no longer collecting old yoga mats but we will continue to make cash donations. May we all contribute in one way or another.


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