It may seem an unlikely connection, but taking a yin yoga class with Whangamata local Emma Scott will help the plight of elephants in Thailand.
Scott, a yoga teacher, usually spends time each year volunteering in Thailand at Elephant Nature Park and their other programmes.
In the past three years she has raised more than $20,000 NZ by teaching a donation-based Yin Yoga class called Ganesh Refresh in Taupo and online.
She recently moved permanently to Whangamata and wants to continue the work here and share Yin Yoga.
"I get to do the best job as not only do I get to support Elephant Nature Park but I also get to share the benefits of Yin Yoga. Yin Yoga is a slow-paced practice using long held specific poses to exert positive stress on subtle tissues such as ligaments, tendons and fascia."
It is suitable for all bodies and abilities.
"My awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant started after a visit to a so-called 'sanctuary' in Thailand. I really wanted to visit and support an ethical-based tourism company, but it turned out to be such an awful place that really was not at all about helping elephants but about making money.
"The elephants there seemed so sad and broken and were not being respected or living in an environment that was natural or nurturing."
After returning home to New Zealand Scott researched and found out about the brutal process called phajaan, which is used to capture and break an elephant to make it usable and afraid to resist. With more research she discovered the award-winning work of Saengduean "Lek" Chailert and her Elephant Nature Park and Save the Elephant Foundation.
"Lek is the recipient of several international conservation awards and one of six women to receive the Woman Heroes of Global Conservation from the then secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Time Magazines Hero of Asia, the Ford Foundations Hero of the Planet award.
"They have won awards for responsible animal welfare within the world travel industry. The park's work also attracted Hollywood attention."
A documentary film called Love and Bananas presented by actress Ashley Bell follows the background and rescue of one of the elephants Noi-Nah, which still lives at the park.
Scott says the park and foundation are funded through donations and volunteer visits, and before the Covid crisis the park was going from strength to strength with new facilities and equipment being built, donated and bought.
"They are, like many, in incredibly challenging times as their borders have been closed so the teams that usually volunteer and visit have not been able to.
"So much is needed as the elephants rescued here are often in extremely poor health due to previous working conditions. Elephants are sold or leased to tourism companies as unfortunately many tourists want to ride elephants and see them 'dance' or perform tricks [but] are often completely unaware of the brutal training methods and conditions they are supporting.
"Elephant Nature Park is often called when an elephant is so damaged that it is of no use to the owners and they can't afford to treat their issues. They have a team of veterinarians and also run a volunteer programme for vets and vet nurses from around the world to learn and share their skills.
"It truly is an incredible place and I feel very privileged to have found it and to support them.
Emma Yin class will start Friday January 29, 8.30am at the Beach Rd reserve and run outside while weather permits. Scott will find an indoor venue to continue the class over the cooler months.
• Contact Emma 027 4087678 email firstname.lastname@example.org