Your chance to give back to India (and hang out in Malibu)

Our friends at Yoga Gives Back are gearing up for their annual, worldwide yoga fundraisers.

Check it out and see if there’s one near you. Most are happening this weekend or next.

Amid these events, there’s another big fundraiser on Sept. 29, and I can tell you right up front whether it is close to you: It’s in Malibu.

That may rule you out. But you can still have a look. Running from 6 to 9 p.m., the event will include appetizers and dinner (Indian, of course), wine, an Odissi dance performance and — I emphasize here — “surprise guests.”

Given we’re talking about star-studded Malibu, surprise guests really could mean anyone.

Here’s a quick reminder of what Yoga Gives Back is all about:

Our mission is two-fold: Funding and Awareness

First, we send funds to support women in India. Inspired by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Muhammad Yunus’ revolutionary mico financing breakthrough, Yoga Gives Back supports micro credit programs in India which lend small loans to women in particular, who have no access to capital. Additionally, we developed “Sister Aid” programs where YGB directly funds education, vocational training and micro credit programs for struggling mothers, girls and orphans. Women are the best poverty fighters—the most effective return on investment for development dollars is an investment in women. With $25 a month, mothers can start their own businesses; girls and orphans can go to school.

Pre-sale tickets are $75, and the Yoga Gives Back folks are hoping to have a solid head count by the end of the weekend so they can plan dinner.

Click the above link and register. It’s over early enough not to effect your Sunday practice.

Posted by Steve

National Yoga Month comes to a close. Did you notice?

It’s the last day of the much (or not so much) ballyhooed National Yoga Month.

Today may even be National Yoga Day. But, really, it’s so un-awe-inspiring, I’m not even sure.

Other than our event for Yoga Gives Back, I can’t say the month had a bit impact on me. I also didn’t particularly notice a big uptick in yoga activities or news. (Yeah, there were the occasional story this past month that was loosely tied to National Yoga Month, but I wouldn’t say there was an avalanche of them.)

Perhaps, though, those of us already doing yoga aren’t the target audience.

Or, maybe, I just missed something really obvious.

Did you do anything special for National Yoga Month? Do you think it is a success and something that is adding to the practice of yoga in America?

Posted by Steve

Full sets of photos from Yoga Gives Back

If you are on Facebook (you are, right? Just don’t give them any personal information!), you can check out photos from a number of the different “Thank You Mother India” events.

A link to the photo page for Yoga Gives Back’s Facebook profile is right here.

It looks like Bobbie and I managed to stay out of the photos of the Los Angeles Omkar108 event — so far. I think another photographer was moving around, shooting. But even then, I believe I stayed under the radar as much as possible.

Two very impressive things about the Yoga Gives Back event. One is that it grew — if I have my numbers all correctly — from the one charity class last year to more than 60 this year, in 11 different countries. That’s a huge leap from one year to the next.

The second, of course, is that all the money goes directly to needy women and children in India. The organization is all volunteers, so there’s not the usual executive director, director of donor relations, etc. salaries to be covered.

In other words, it’s a good cause (if you haven’t gotten that point)!

I heard some talk about next year’s event and what more could be done. Folks were discussing promising and exciting ideas.

My question to you is: What ideas do you have for next year? What more should be involved in the event? What would you like to see? What might make a big, big impact on families in India?

Comment section awaits!

Posted by Steve

Quick photos of ‘Thank You Mother India’ event

As promised, here are a few images from the Omkar 108 “Thank You Mother India” event for Yoga Gives Back.

Ganesh shrine at Omkar 108.
Part of the crowd watching Yoga Gives Back video.
Indian dance performance, right side up.

There were some real photographers there, too. We’ll link to some other photos when they are online.

Posted by Steve and Bobbie

Reminder: One week until Yoga Gives Back event

A Saturday reminder that next Saturday is the worldwide “Thank You Mother India” event to benefit Yoga Gives Back.

Previous posts on the charity are here and here.

We will be at Omkar108 from 10 a.m. until about 1 p.m. for a yoga class, music, dancing and Indian food. And much else, I’m pretty confident.

If you’re in or near Los Angeles County, think about attending. All proceeds go to micro-financing for women in India. You can donate your cost of a yoga class here.

Posted by Steve

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

A different kind of confluence

As you may or may not know (I didn’t), September is “National Yoga Month.” Studios all over the U.S. will be offering a free week of yoga. As it happens, the first annual day of “Thank You, Mother India” will be September 17. It’s sponsored by Yoga Gives Back, an organization founded by Kayoko Mitsumatsu (Q&A to come), dedicated to supporting women in India by building awareness here in the States, and beyond.

Namaste, indeed. Via

Now, it seems interesting to me that these two things are happening in the same month. One is designed to expand the ever-expanding yoga culture in the U.S. The other is designed to show gratitude, a reminder that India is the source of the practice, and, ultimately, responsible for its benefits.

Leslie Hendry has a wonderful article over at The Huffington Post about the organization and the event; she also talks about her own sense of gratitude, and the role of our teacher, Jörgen Christiansson. She makes this excellent point about the difference between a yoga practice, and her old life working out in a gym:

I knew no one and spoke to no one. This is how I rolled for years. I still know no one from the gyms I frequented, and I’ve never reminisced about padding the mechanical stairs. I certainly didn’t help launch a non-profit to give back to a culture that brought weigh training into my life. But that’s what I did after I hit the yoga path.

Now, here’s what I propose. Certainly, those of us who have been practicing for years (15 total now, for me) don’t need to be given a free week of yoga. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got friends who are teaching for free in September, and it’s a great idea. But, instead of taking a free week, why not give the equivalent of a week to Yoga Gives Back?

As Leslie and the Yoga Gives Back website point out, “For the cost of one yoga class, you can change a life.” What would the cost of a week of yoga mean? My fellow Ashtangis, the dollar equivalent of a six-day practice is a nice bit of cash and would do a lot of good.

Come find out more. See you Sept. 17.

Posted by Bobbie