How One Woman Showed Her Animal Lover Pride With Yoga

Beth Shaw followed her dream as an animal lover to take care of the voiceless - and did so by combining it with her love of yoga.

Beth Shaw followed her dream as an animal lover to take care of the voiceless – and did so by combining it with her love of yoga.

Before Beth Shaw ever stepped onto a yoga mat, she knew her life’s work would be speaking for animals, who don’t have a voice.

“I remember telling my boyfriend in high school that, when I had a lot of money, I wanted to have spay-and-neuter vans and go around and care for the animals,” says Shaw, the founder of YogaFit. And now, almost 24 years later, she says, “I feel like I’m stepping into my dharma [life path] now.”

Shaw has turned her business acumen—YogaFit has certified 70,000 fitness professionals who teach yoga worldwide—into a vehicle for promoting animal rights. In her hometown of Los Angeles, she was instrumental in passing a new law that requires the spaying and neutering of pets, which helps prevent the killing of millions of unwanted animals. She backs a similar California bill.

And the success of YogaFit enables Shaw to put her money where her values are. In 2007 she donated $95,000 to animal causes, including Karma Rescue, which rescues big dogs; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; and local animal shelters, where she also volunteers her time. In addition to these contributions, Shaw sometimes uses the opportunity to raise funds for animal groups when she guest-teaches classes.

Last year she joined the National Leadership Council of the Humane Society of the United States. “Beth is really the Humane Society’s ambassador to the people in this country who are deeply involved in yoga,” says the organization’s president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle. “She promotes these ideals of compassion and action for animals and constantly works to raise awareness among yogis, who may have an inclination toward animal protection but not have the information. She closes that gap.”

Shaw has recruited volunteers to help out at the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation animal sanctuary, and she pays her staff to work at spay-and-neuter clinics on the weekends. YogaFit also sponsors billboards and advertising throughout Los Angeles to promote an awareness of animal-rights abuses and in support of pet adoption.

But animals aren’t the only beneficiaries of Shaw’s compassion. She requires all YogaFit trainees to provide yoga classes for underserved populations.

“It’s all ahimsa,” Shaw says about her commitment to inspire her students and teachers to help others. “The most important yoga you can do is karma yoga. Business without a greater purpose is useless.”

See also Yoga and Animals: Use Yoga for Gentler Training Methods