What if one million of us came together to empower others? I believe we can definitely make this happen. And it will truly enrich our yoga practice, too. It will become a two-way practice. It is estimated that 300 million people enjoy yoga worldwide today, generating 80 billion U.S. dollars. If we are part of this huge global trend, why don’t we take our own initiative and redirect a portion of this huge resource to give back to Mother India?
This is why we are reaching out to you to be the force of One Million Yogis to make a massive positive impact in many more lives in India who desperately need our support for survival. While we enjoy our blissful yoga practice on the mat, many mothers struggle to prepare the next meal for their children, young girls are forced into early arranged marriages, and orphans wander as HIV infected parents die in the towns and villages of India, the birthplace of yoga. I even met a teen girl in West Bengal who has been tortured by her father and brothers simply because she does not quit school. Today, with YGB’s scholarship and social program, she is earning good money and her family stopped beating her…the stories go on and on. Just as we want to make progress with our yoga, everyone wants to make progress in life to reach one’s dream with joy and light. Why can’t we provide them with life changing opportunities?
Most of us probably started yoga asana practice for physical exercise.
Eleven years ago, I walked into an Ashtanga yoga class in Los Angeles looking for a fun and rigorous fitness class. I got hooked. I loved learning new poses and sweating a lot, while also slowing down and deepening my breathing. I was also introduced to Yoga’s spiritual tradition and started learning Sanskrit. One day, I read a line that hit me to my core, “First part of your life is to experience and learn. Second part of your life is to serve others.” I was 47. I did not know much about Seva or Karma of the yoga tradition. But this message truly resonated in me. With all I got from my daily yoga practice and my life, I needed to give back. To my surprise, I soon learned that many people actually share the exact same feeling!
This was how Yoga Gives Back (YGB) was born and continues to grow. In its eleventh year, we now fund more than 1200 impoverished mothers, youths, and children in India with microloans and education funds with a minimum of five-year commitment to each person. Today, yoga communities in nearly 20 countries support our mission.
I have never imagined that YGB could grow this much. But now, as YGB goes into its second decade of operation, I am convinced that we can do so much more. We can reach out to One Million Yogis globally!
Here is another example how your support change lives:
This year, we are adding new 25 teen “Devadasi” (servant to God) girls to our program, just north of Mysore. These girls were born to Devadasi families in central Karnataka state. Once they reach to puberty, they are given to God in a marriage ceremony and labeled as “Devadasi, ” which is the beginning of their life long career as prostitutes as their mothers and grandmothers were. Our NGO partner is working hard to rescue these girls, to provide them with good education and secure life so they can build their life with independence, sustainability and self-esteem. Your participation in this June Challenge will support these girls’ future!
This is why I believe we can engage one million yogis: We are not asking anybody to run a 5K to raise funds or to donate 1 million dollars. With your daily dedication, Kino’s continued support to our mission, and amazingly generous sponsors backing our effort, we get closer to One Million Yogis every day.
If One Million Yogis get involved in this revolutionary movement, whether volunteering, hosting a class, doing Challenge, donating whatever you can, we can definitely uplift millions of lives in India. So why don’t we make this happen?!
Running YGB for the last 11 years while enjoying the benefit and abundance of yoga practice, I am more convinced that yoga practice is enriched when it becomes a two-way practice. When you direct your energy gained from this practice not only to yourself but also to others, yoga truly starts to mean more. Yoga’s ripple effect truly starts to explode beyond our imagination. Maybe this is why Yoga means “Union.” Together we can effect change, by honoring our practice, and activating our gratitude. Join us this June for Kino and Ahmed’s 10 Day Challenge, and stay involved in Yoga Gives Back’s #One MillionYogis Campaign. Namaste.
By Kayoko Mitsumatsu
Kayoko Mitsumatsu is the Founder and Executive Director of Yoga Gives Back