Amongst the hustle and bustle of Lordship Lane; the yummy mummies sipping tea in coffee shops, the long queue for the butchers on a Sunday morning and brunch being devoured on every corner; there is something amazing happening.
Grassroots yoga company, CorkYogis, set up from a little council flat in East Dulwich, is aiming to revolutionise the yoga industry whilst changing lives of vulnerable women in India. CorkYogis is a business with a global conscience; started here in East Dulwich by Lara Sengupta in March. The social enterprise has created innovative, insanely grippy, natural cork yoga mats in order to encourage the west to help girls and women in India escape the terrors of sex slavery in the east.
India is the birthplace of Yoga; a practice that promotes peace and empowerment in whomever pursues it. Unfortunately however, India has a far less peaceful underworld. It is estimated that one women or child is sold to traffickers for every minute of the day, as desperately poor families are forced to make huge sacrifices. On top of this, unbelievable amounts of women are stolen from their families into a life of subjugation and abuse. Over 200,000 women are currently missing in India, and that is just the ones that were reported. CorkYogis wants to create change and give back to the country that gave them the practice they love. They aim to raise awareness of these atrocities and change the lives of these women; to empower those who escape to move on from their unimaginable past.
To do so, CorkYogis has teamed up with the charity Destiny Reflection in Kolkata, a charity that rescues girls and women from the trade. Destiny conducts training programmes to equip girls with basic literacy and numeracy, as well as skills in sewing and crafts, which will allow them to find alternative employment.
CorkYogis has set up a “one for one” scheme with Destiny, so that for every mat they sell, one woman will learns a skill to help her move forward. They have also employed the girls themselves to make their beautiful yoga mat bags, all of which are unique and made from recycled sarees donated to the charity. 100% of the profits from these bags are returned to the girls, which provides them with a steady income. This allows them independence and prevents a relapse into the trade.
EVERY YOGA MAT SOLD = ONE WOMAN LEARNS A LIFE-CHANGING SKILL
EVERY YOGA BAG SOLD = ONE WEEKS WAGES
What also make CorkYogis unique are the mats themselves. Made from cork, they revolutionise your practice as the material actually gets gripper as it gets wet, meaning that poses stay strong and stable even as you sweat. What is more, the cork is harvested sustainably from the bark of oak trees in Portugal. Investment into this industry is imperative to keeping these beautiful trees standing, as more and more wine companies are opting of screw tops, the traditional avenue for cork production is dwindling. Harvesters are therefore looking for new and innovative ways to use the material, and CorkYogis yoga mats have now become one of them.
The natural texture of this robust material also feels amazing to practice on. Cork has the same natural temperature as human body temperature, which means it feels very comfortable under foot. It also has a natural impermeable layer, which prevents the absorption of nasty smells and bacteria. The mats are therefore perfect not just for personal yoga at home, but also for yoga studios and classes, as they stay clean and fresh.
Essentially then, CorkYogis is unique in every way. They have a unique, innovative product that they want to use to shed some light on a problem that exists to epidemic proportions. CorkYogis realises that having the simple freedom to practice yoga is a freedom and a privilege that far too many could never imagine. CorkYogis want to see past the materialism that so often blinds us in the western world and ensure that their products stand for more; that they create real change to real people.
Keep up to date with our story and our products on our website and social media pages!