• Celebrating International Yoga Day with Yoga Gives Back

    Yoga made me realize that my body is a temple. I am responsible to take care of it so that I can serve others. This was a profound awakening. It also made me realize that practicing yoga is not a selfish act but rather essential if I want to continue to serve others.

    What is yoga to you?

    YOGA is the anchor and light in my life, which totally changed my life. I was a documentary film maker for most of my adult life for nearly 30 years, producing TV programs for Japanese National Public TV on current affair issues. Once I found yoga, it changed my life. I eventually quit my job to dedicate my life for Yoga Gives Back. YOGA grounds me to the core on a daily basis with meditation and asana practices. Slowing my breath and clearing my head is the most important effect of YOGA in my life. It teaches me mind-body connection and therefore, it makes my goal of living well fundamentally meaningful.

    How did you get started with yoga?

    My friend took me to my first yoga class almost fifteen years ago, which was Kundalini yoga with Gurmukh at Golden Bridge, near my home in Los Angeles. I was very happy to find that YOGA offered not only physical but also spiritual practice as a goal. I got interested in learning more about YOGA and started exploring various different classes for a few years, till I found Ashtanga Yoga which totally hooked me into more regular asana practices as well as a deeper spiritual journey.

    What impact has yoga had on your life?

    Yoga made me realize that my body is a temple. I am responsible to take care of it so that I can serve others. This was a profound awakening. It also made me realize that practicing yoga is not a selfish act but rather essential if I want to continue to serve others.

    How have you seen yoga impact the lives of others?

    I continue to receive yoga practitioners’ messages expressing how grateful they are for yoga in their lives and therefore want to give back to India. This shows how YOGA is impacting many lives around the world. YGB is shared now in more than 20 countries, with more than 150 Global Ambassadors (including Kino and Tim) and hundreds of volunteers, raising awareness and funds for YGB’s mission. YGB’s growth shows YOGA’s impact in many lives.

    Can you tell us more about Yoga Gives Back?

    Yoga Gives Back (YGB) is a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization, which engages global yoga communities with gratitude to give back to Mother India, for the gift of yoga we have received.

    We raise awareness and funds to empower underserved women and children in India. YGB is unique in uniting all yoga practitioners regardless of branch or school with one simple cause, GRATITUDE. I am proud that we have been able to reach out to yoga communities in more than 20 countries which support nearly 1400 underserved women and children in Karnataka and West Bengal, India through micro loans and education funds.

    YGB is also unique in connecting our global supporters directly to the fund recipients in India through regular updates of their stories with photos and videos on social media and regular news letters, so global supporters can see how everyone’s contributions are truly making tremendous difference in our recipients’ lives.

    We also offer dozens of short documentary YGB FILMS which I have been filming and producing since 2007 to share how so many lives have been transformed with their dreams coming true. We empower ourselves by empowering others. That is a truly wonderful lesson.

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced in the world of yoga?

    I have been most inspired with the incredible response Yoga Gives Back has received since the start in 2007 from so many yogis around the world. This is the testament that the world of yoga is filled with compassionate souls that can make a real difference in this world if we can come together.

    What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    Yoga has unfortunately become a symbol of capitalism. Many yoga businesses accelerate consumerism and competition rather than introducing and emphasizing compassion or the real goal of YOGA to be united with all and relinquish the self-centered ego. I am always so grateful for our sponsors like Omstars who continue to believe in our mission and share it with their own community. YGB has been blessed that a growing list of yoga and wellness businesses support our mission. Their support has been critical for our sustainable operation.

    What do you feel is your dharma–your life mission?

    My life mission is to engage One Million Yogis throughout the world to grow YGB into a more sustainable nonprofit organization that can empower thousands or millions more underserved women and children in India to empower themselves and build sustainable livelihoods.

    Are there any current projects or upcoming events that you are able to share with our community?

    “International Yoga Day” Global Campaign is taking place over the weekend of June 21. While many of us are blessed to have yoga practice that sustains us at this difficult time, many women and children in India are struggling for their lives due to enormous stress added by the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown and the catastrophic Cyclone Amphan (May 20) in West Bengal. India’s COVID-19 nation-wide lock down has caused 500 impoverished mothers of YGB’s micro loans programs in rural villages of West Bengal to lose their jobs and daily income. Many of 700 young girls under YGB’s education programs are facing their family’s financial pressure to drop out of school and get married.

    Cyclone Amphan hit the rural villages outside of Kolkata very hard. Many of our 1200 fund recipients in the region lost their homes. They need to rebuild everything. India has generously given the world the eternal gift of yoga. It is our goal to create a community of #OneMillionYogis to give back especially at this time. Host, take a class, or simply donate whatever you can. I am grateful that so many YGB Global Ambassadors have expressed their support and are hosting or donating classes to inspire many yoga teachers around the world to do the same.

     

    Check YGB Global Calendar for all class listings

     

    Live Classes with Omstars Teachers

     


    Our goal is to raise $50,000 with this global campaign to ensure our assistance to urgent relief needs to rebuild lives as well as YGB’s micro loan and education programs to empower under-served women and children. Are you in? It’s easy.

    Host one class: 

    a- Register your event
    b- Download Event Tool Kit

         (YGB logoFlyer TemplatePress Kit)
     c- Promote Your Event
    (YGB will post your event on Global Calendar and Social Media)

    d- Use this link for direct donation or payment
    * If you use this link for all donation payments, make sure that your event’s attendees mention the host teacher’s name in this payment form.

    Let’s come together as the force of #OneMillionYogis!

    Additionally, there are two other ways to have immediate impact:

    Thank you in advance for your contribution and support of the under-served women and children in India. Any inquiries, please write to info@yogagivesback.org. Namaste.

    By Kayoko Mitsumatsu, Founder of Yoga Gives Back.org

  • Join this June Challenge, become the force of One Million Yogis!

    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