Jorgen Christiansson of Omkar108 studio, Los Angeles

Photographed by Hale Davis

Over the last four years, Yoga Gives Back has grown into a global team of grass-root supporters, with many ambassadors who are teachers giving their studio time to coordinate fundraising classes.

For many in the West, the path into yoga practice starts with a desire to try a new fitness routine, then as the practice goes deeper, often a spiritual awakening is triggered, bringing an emotional balance and reflection which is new and never experienced before. For some the path goes further, as they strive for a greater depth and meaning to their practice, a way to express gratitude, the ultimate practice of karma yoga. Los Angeles-based documentary filmmaker Kayoko Mitsumatsu recalls a similar personal experience with her yoga practice; Mitsumatsu said her own yoga journey began as a mission to become healthy, which then took her to learn more about Indian philosophy. “Asana gives you that reflection… and Indian philosophy taught me that the second half of your life is about helping others, giving back.” She adds: “What can we do with our healthy selves?” From that point, she was able to realise her dream when in 2007, she co-founded Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit organisation with a mission to give back to the founding country and culture of yoga itself, India, with an intention to help alleviate poverty and raise awareness. Mitsumatsu reiterates the mantra of Yoga Gives Back, the simple mission statement: “for the cost of one yoga class, you can change a life.” Over the last four years, Yoga Gives Back has grown into a global team of grass-root supporters, with many ambassadors who are teachers giving their studio time to coordinate fundraising classes. Donations collected are then channelled by Yoga Gives Back into micro credit and direct funding programs across India, targeting communities in areas including West Bengal and Karnataka. Yoga is a gift from ancient India, embraced by the West. where 76% of India’s population lives below the poverty line, 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 one of the country’s few certified Ashtanga teachers, Jorgen Christiansson--a longtime student of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, India’s leading practitioner credited with introducing Ashtanga to the West--who has for many years taught a number of high profile students including Sting, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Toby Maguire, and Robert Downey Jr. Christiansson says that his guru Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois gave him a gift of life-long practice and patience, faith, and respect. Along with MahaMondo.com, Christiansson spearheaded the first ever Thank You Mother India fundraising day in 2010, with an event in Los Angeles. Yoga Gives Back was encouraged by the success of this event, raising over $2000 USD. This year, Mitsumatsu has seen the yoga community across the globe focus on making the second Thank You Mother India day even bigger and more joyous. Christiansson strongly believes in the words of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois: “Practice and all is coming,” and he has successfully applied this principle to his own life and has strived to encourage and instil the same within his students and community. For Christiansson, the notion of uniting the global yoga community for Thank You Mother India is truly inspiring, uniting all styles supporting in true yoga spirit.Donating time and uniting the yoga community offers Christiansson personal gratification and a way to express gratitude to India for everything it has given him. “I got so much from India, my support to this cause is a way to give back. I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” said Christiansson. On September 17, 2011, Yoga Gives Back has energized the global yoga community for a one-off day of donation classes and events, focusing on raising global awareness on the campaign. Already there are more than 30 studios signed on, with more joining on a weekly basis. Studios from Brazil, the UK, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, and Tokyo will be holding hands with partners across the U.S. “This is unprecedented. This campaign has become global, and Yoga Gives Back is very excited about the power of the message-it’s become like a chain reaction as more and more people have joined to take action,” says Mitsumatsu.

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07/08/2011 22:24

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