We believe in Yoga Gives Back and we’re thrilled to support them by hosting a 90 minute Hatha yoga class for all levels with Chad Hamrin at the YogaGlo studio on Saturday, August 20th from 11:00am to 1:30pm. Event details are at the bottom of this post.
What is Yoga Gives Back all about? A couple of weeks ago we interviewed Kayoko Mitsumatsu, the founder of Yoga Gives Back, about the power of the work she does and why she created the organization. This week, we interviewed Maneesh Kalra about his work with Yoga Gives Back and what it’s like to volunteer your time for this organization.
Q. What inspired you to get involved with Yoga Gives Back?
A. I was introduced to YGB founder, Kayoko Mitsumatsu, by an old yoga friend in Hong Kong and, as fate would have it, Kayoko happened to be visiting her parents in Japan. That gave us an opportunity to meet and for me to hear the story of how YGB came to be.
When you sit with Kayoko for a few minutes, you cannot help but be inspired by the good she wants to do. She found a way to motivate and mobilize those of us already practicing and teaching yoga a chance to experience ‘sewa’ or yoga-inspired service.
Her approach to advocacy, fundraising, and donating is also truly inspiring; it is a grassroots movement utilizing the power of community and of micro-finance to make the world a better place.
Hers is such a compelling story – a woman of Japanese descent who immigrated to the US and is now spearheading a movement to shine a light on to the plight of impoverished young women and children in India. She has devoted her time and effort to benefit the Motherland, the birthplace of the yoga that now inspires so many in the West and around the world. (Perhaps I felt her story even more compelling as I am an Indo-Canadian living in Japan and teaching/practicing yoga.)
Q. How do you spend your time volunteering for Yoga Gives Back?
A. Our team in Japan looks to hold several YGB charity events every year. Over the past four years, we have partnered with our very good friend and teacher, Chuck Miller, during his annual visits to hold retreats and special ‘satsang’ (sitting in Truth) events, most often at Buddhist temples, to raise both money and awareness for YGB and the work this amazing organization does. These events are not just limited to Tokyo. We take these on the road to cities like Osaka and Fukuoka where again we hold special ‘satsang’ classes and share the proceeds from these classes with YGB.
We also spread the word by selling YGB t-shirts and using these opportunities to educate and inform the Japanese yoga community about how they can get involved, whether simply by buying a shirt, sponsoring a child, promoting to others, and/or even helping with future events.
Q. Why is service so important to you?
A. I was brought up in a house of bhakti and karma yoga where doing ‘sewa’ was just a normal part of life. In a way, it was nothing so special or out of the ordinary but rather something innate, a sort of natural extension or expression of our very being. Unfortunately, modern life is often so full of the hustle and bustle that we become too engrossed in ourselves and in our own daily lives. Although yoga is telling us to take time to go ‘into ourselves’, it is also constantly reminding us that ‘we are all one’ and that union is something that we share with all of our fellow human beings and with all Life.
So when we get the chance, like my fated meeting with Kayoko, we need to actively pursue involvement. What a blessing it is to get this opportunity to serve. And what a blessing it is to realize that it is a blessing to be able to serve.
Q. What has been the most rewarding aspect(s) with working in an organization that you believe in so much?
A. There are countless rewarding aspects but the most obvious one would be seeing the results of what we can accomplish together. The results in this case can be seen at both ends of the process: the joy you see in people when they get a chance to donate to a good cause and to hear about how their donation is put to use making life better for someone who truly needs it. And the joy you see in the receivers of these donations when they are able to start a small business and support their children’s education and ultimately their future. YGB videos really capture this spirit of joy and of gratitude and of connection to our less fortunate brothers and sisters in the Motherland.
Q. What would say to others who are considering volunteering? How can they get involved? What can they expect?
A. One of the most inviting features of YGB is that there is really no set time commitment. It is basically a platform that supports any and all activities you may be interested in organizing to ultimately spread the good word and raise some funds for the cause.
So if you like to hold summer yoga-on-the-beach events, well you can simply add “YGB-charity event” to the title and give the event a little more meaning than it may have otherwise had. Similarly, you could offer your regular classes or workshops or retreats or any yoga-related offering and add the YGB charity.
If you are not able to organize or not interested in the organizing aspect, there are many other ways to get involved:
1) Volunteer: you can always volunteer your time to help out at a YGB event in your area. For larger events in particular, we always need help!
2) Promote/Share event info: we always need to reach more and more people so you can help by ‘sharing’ event info on social media or blogs, etc.
3) Sponsor: if time is an issue or if there are no events in your area, you can always go to the YGB website and sponsor a child.
4) Donate: donations are also an easy way to get involved when time is an issue.
5) Purchase YGB tanks and tees: we all need yoga wear so why not show your support by purchasing a YGB tank or tee? Its a great way to spread the word as well.
YGB is always looking for ideas and so someone could make a big difference simply by contacting YGB (or their local ambassador) and suggesting events or other ways to get the word out there and get more people inspired to ‘give back’!
Surrounded by melodic kirtans, devotional mantras, and the philosophy of yoga and the Bhagavad Gita since early childhood, Maneesh found his passion for yoga rekindled as a young adult.
Under the tutelage of various prominent teachers in Asia, Maneesh developed a passion and devotion for Ashtanga (the eight limbs of yoga) and the healing powers of yogasana (poses) and pranayama (breathing). This passion grew so intense that by 2006, it compelled him to leave the frenzied rat race of the corporate world behind and instead pursue full-time yoga studies in Mysore, India. While in India, Maneesh was able to dive into the study of various schools of asana, pranayama, Ayurveda, Sanskrit and the intimate relation between these subjects.
Maneesh has, however, been most profoundly influenced by world-renowned teachers Chuck Miller, Maty Ezraty, and Chad Hamrin. They have inspired and guided Maneesh to further deepen his interest in the therapeutic aspects of yoga, the power of the breath (often linked to the vital energy, prana), and the ultimate spiritual goals of yoga – the search for the Truth.
These variegated yoga experiences have taught Maneesh to appreciate how the tools of asana, pranayama and beyond help us to cultivate a higher level of awareness in ourselves. Maneesh hopes to share how these tools can help us cope with the pitfalls of modern life: how asana can be used therapeutically in rebalancing the body to create healthy alignment; and how increased awareness and self-reflection can help us to go beyond our conditioning and improve how we see and relate with others and the world around us.
“Truth is the same always. Whoever ponders it will get the same answer. Buddha got it. Patanjali got it. Jesus got it. Mohammed got it. The answer is the same, but the method of working it out may vary this way or that.” ? Swami Satchidananda; The Yoga Sutras
Help Yoga Gives Back give back! Donate $54 to Yoga Gives Back and receive 3 consecutive months of YogaGlo membership for no charge. For every additional $18 you donate, we’ll add an additional month free of charge. Offer valid only if you donate prior to August 20th and attend the in-studio Yoga Gives Back event. Total donation benefit not to exceed six consecutive months of YogaGlo membership. Offer available to both existing and new YogaGlo members. Cannot be combined with any other discounts, offers or promotions, including free trial periods.
Event includes a 90-minute yoga class, refreshments, a short film, a raffle and freebies from Yoga Gives Back sponsors.
Proceeds will tremendously help nearly 900 mothers and children in India with micro loans and education funds.
Space is limited. Online pre-registration recommended, $40. We cannot wait to see you at the YogaGlo studio for this special event!