For many in the west, the path into yoga practice starts with a desire to try a newtness routine, then as the practice goes deeper, oten a spiritual awakening is triggeredbringing an emotional balance and refection which is new and never experienced be-ore. For some the path goes urther, as they strive or a greater depth and meaningto their practice, a way to express gratitude, the ultimate practice o Karma yoga. LosAngeles-based documentary lmmaker Kayoko Mitsumatsu recalls a similar personalexperience with her yoga practice; Mitsumatsu said her own yoga journey began as amission to become healthy, which then took her to learn more about Indian philosophy.“Asana gives you that refection… and Indian philosophy taught me that the second halo your lie is about helping others, giving back.” She adds: “What can we do with ourhealthy selves?”From that point, she was able to realize her dream when in 2007, she co-oundedYoga Gives Back, a non-prot organization with a mission to give back to the oundingcountry and culture o yoga itsel, India, with an intention to help alleviate poverty andraise awareness. Mitsumatsu reiterates the mantra o Yoga Gives Back, the simple mis-sion statement: “or the cost o one yoga class, you can change a lie.”Over the last our years, Yoga Gives Back has grown into a global team o grass-rootsupporters, with many ambassadors who are teachers giving their studio time to coordi-nate undraising classes. Donations collected are then channeled by Yoga Gives Back intomicrocredit and direct unding programs across India, targeting communities in areas includingWest Bengal and Karnataka.Embraced by the west, yoga is a git rom ancient India, where 76% o India’s population livesbelow the poverty line, while six billion USD is spent on yoga in the U.S. alone each year.Mitsumatsu regularly practices at Omkar108 yoga studio in Los Angeles, under oneo the country’s ew certied Ashtanga teachers, Jorgen Christiansson, a long-timestudent o Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, India’s leading practitioner credited with introducingAshtanga to the west, who has or many years taught a number o high prole studentsincluding Sting, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Toby Maguire, and RobertDowney Jr. Christiansson says that his guru Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois gave him a git o lie-long practice and patience, aith, and respect. Along with MahaMondo.com, Christians-son spearheaded the rst ever Thank You Mother India undraising day in 2010, withan event in Los Angeles. Yoga Gives Back was encouraged by the success o this event,raising over $2000 USD. This year, Mitsumatsu has seen the yoga community across theglobe ocus on making the second Thank You Mother India day even bigger and more joyous.Christiansson strongly believes in the words o Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois: “Practice and allis coming,” and he has successully applied this principle to his own lie and has strivedto encourage and instill the same within his students and community. For Christians-son, the notion o uniting the global yoga community or Thank You Mother India is trulyinspiring, uniting all styles supporting in true yoga spirit. Donating time and uniting the yogacommunity oers Christiansson personal gratication and a way to express gratitude toIndia or everything it has given him. “I got so much rom India, my support to this cause isa way to give back. I’m very grateul or this opportunity,” said Christiansson.On September 17, 2011, Yoga Gives Back has energized the global yoga community or aone-o day o donation classes and events, ocusing on raising global awareness on the cam-paign. Already there are more than 30 studios signed on, with more joining on a weekly basis.Studios rom Brazil, the UK, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, and Tokyo will be holding handswith partners across the U.S. “This is unprecedented. This campaign has become glob-al, and Yoga Gives Back is very excited about the power o the message, it’s become likea chain reaction as more and more people have joined to take action,” says Mitsumatsu.
Over the last four years,Yoga Gives Backhas grown intoa global teamof grass-root supporters,with many ambassadorswho areteachersgiving theirstudio time tocoordinatefundraisingclasses.
Jorgen Christianssono Omkar108 studio, Los Angeles
Photographed by Hale Davis