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Hot for a Cause

Area yogis use their practice to raise money for the Double H Ranch

by Erin Pihlaja on March 6, 2013


Some students at Hot Yoga Saratoga in Latham are pushing their practice to raise money for charity. Photo by Erin Pihlaja.

Alana Sparrow stood on one leg in front of the mirror of a yoga studio in Latham, arms wrapped around one another and raised in front of her face. Sweat poured off her body; her face was red with exertion. She held the posture, called “eagle pose,” for a brief period before relaxing back onto her mat. Sparrow practices Bikram yoga at Hot Yoga Saratoga in a room where the temperature ranges from 105 to 110 degrees.

I didn’t make it through the first class,” she said. “It was grueling, but I don’t like anything to get the best of me.” That was at the end of January, and Sparrow soon started taking classes three to four times a week. Then the studio announced that it would be doing a 30-day challenge, a fundraising drive where the proceeds will benefit the Double H Ranch, a camp that “provides specialized programs and year-round support for children and their families dealing with life-threatening illnesses.”

Sparrow signed up, calling her personal drive the “Holy Hell” campaign. She will do an hour-and-a-half of hot Bikram yoga each day for 31 days, and is looking for sponsors to donate $1 for each of the days for a total of $31. Her ultimate goal is to raise $1,000 for the charity. “I like the personal challenge,” she said, “but I like the cause. The core of what the Double H Ranch does—it just speaks to me.”

The ranch is located in the Adirondack Park and officially opened its doors in 1993. It was founded by Charles R. Wood and Paul Newman, but relies on donations to fund most of the programs that are offered free to visitors. “Ninety percent of our money is from the community,” said Linda Smith, a member of the development team at the ranch. “Seventy percent of our kids are from New York state, those involved in the winter program are local, within driving distance.”

The ranch offers several types of programs and is staffed with medical professionals, creating opportunities for children who ordinarily might not be able to do certain activities or have a sleepover away from their parents. The family programs allow parents and siblings of children with illnesses to take part in the fun too. “One family,” said Smith, “a mom with four children, came to ski. Her one daughter was wheelchair bound. She told me that this trip did so much for the entire family. That her siblings saw her as the star.”

Marissa Delappa, a certified Bikram instructor at Hot Yoga Saratoga, said that the students of the Saratoga and Latham studios have been very positive about the campaign. “We had 60 students sign up for the challenge. If each person raised $180, we could give the ranch over $10,000. We are excited to do good and make a difference, and it’s also an opportunity for people to push themselves beyond their regular limits, and beyond their comfort zone in the yoga room.”

Sparrow said that she has felt that push but has already noticed some benefits from the practice as well. “It has helped significantly with my back tension, and my skin is glowing,” she said. “It’s great but now there’s an even higher level of focus because I get to do this to help somebody else.”

More information about the Hot Yoga Saratoga 30-day challenge can be found at Hot Yoga Saratoga’s Facebook page or at 587-YOGA.