It’s only right that Yoga Gives Back

As we noted in an earlier post, our teacher in Los Angeles, Jörgen Christiansson, and one of our fellow students, Kayoko Mitsumatsu, are involved in a wonderful cause this month: Thank You Mother India, a fundraiser for the Yoga Gives Back charity, which Kayoko founded four years ago.

When I write “fundraiser,” I think I’m selling the event a bit short. In only its second year, this Sept. 17 event will be taking place worldwide: More than 50 studios in 10 countries are putting on fundraising events for Yoga Gives Back.

Bobbie and I both will be going to the event at Jörgen’s studio, Omkar 108. (Note: My donation explicitly is so Jörgen won’t lie on me in order to get my hamstrings to loosen. I’m also assuming another student of Jörgen’s who has been involved in the event and blogs at mahamondo will be there, too.) You can click on this link  to find a class/event in your area or — perhaps even better — to get started setting up one at your studio.

Did I say, “You can?” I meant: You should. You do. Click and check out more.

You’re wondering, of course, just what Yoga Gives Back is. Rather than my trying to tell you, I sent along five questions to Kayoko so you could read about her charity and the fundraiser in her own words.

1.       Can you provide a little background on Yoga Gives Back and what the goals and mission are?

I started this organization in 2007 as I grew healthier and happier person with yoga practice and started to wonder what can I do with my healthy self? Two things happened around the same time… my quest to inner life and fulfillment through studying of Yoga philosophy illuminated how one can live for others. I also was working on a documentary project on Social Entrepreneurship and learned a lot about Nobel Peace Recipient Dr Muhammad Yunus’ revolutionary microfinancing. I realized that we can give back to India by just collecting small donations at a time. We did not have to be millionaires to make some contribution to the poverty issues in India.

2.       The “Thank You Mother India” event is now in its second year. How are you expecting this year’s event to differ from the first?

First year was hosted by Jörgen Christiansson and and it was the most successful local event of 2010. This second year, we are developing this event into the first, and unprecedented global yoga event.

It is just wonderful to see how world yoga community can come together for this one cause, giving back to India where Yoga is from by supporting impoverished women and children. I am already so inspired by the level of enthusiastic support from over 50 studios from more than 10 countries, US, UK, Hong Kong, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, Japan, Singapore and probably more by Sep 17th!

3.       What were the highlights for you from the first “Thank You Mother India” event?

It just made it clear to me that the yoga community can come together for one cause. We had over 60 attendants and totally sold out event. It also showed that when the teacher and host care about the cause, it generates tremendous positive energy that becomes infectious! This success gave seeds to this amazing global event, and the title “Thank You Mother India” totally resonates among anybody who appreciates what Yoga has brought to their lives. This is why I would like this event to become a long lasting, annual event, reminding all of us how fortunate we are to have Yoga in our lives!

4.       What’s your longer-term vision for Yoga Gives Back?

Our mission is “to mobilize the global yoga community to empower women in India to build sustainable livelihoods”. We are now funding directly 56 impoverished women and children in India, for their education, vocational training and microcredit programs, in addition to our support for Grameen Foundation’s microfinancing programs in India. As we grow bigger and support more people, Yoga Gives Back itself also has to become sustainable organization. I would like to see more and more yoga studios from all over the world to join in our annual event “Thank You Mother India” in addition to more events throughout the year to have sustainable support. As a documentary filmmaker, I would also like to continue to film our fund recipients at least once a year and accumulate the footage for 5 years, 10 years or more, hoping to share with our community the reality of how small donations can actually change lives! I would like to visually demonstrate that our mantra “For the cost of one yoga class, you can change a life” holds powerful truth.

5.       Finally, can you describe your own yoga practice a little bit, how you started and how it influences your day-to-day life?

I have always been exercise lover and even got a black belt of Tae Kwon Do in my 30’s. But I found totally something new in Yoga that I was searching for. It gives me some power and momentum for internal reflection  and energy to act. I started practicing Kunadalini with my best friend years ago, and ended up totally falling in love with Ashtanga practice. I practice regularly with Jörgen  Christiansson at Omkar108 Yoga in Los Angeles, where I am searching for a sustainable practice for my life, finding peace with my pain and limits.


Once again, the event is Sept. 17. Check and see if there’s one in your area and if not, there’s still time to pull one together. You can check out more on Yoga Gives Back at its website.

Thanks to Kayoko for taking the time to answer my questions.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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