by Kelly Benshoof
A 2016 study found that 36.7 million people practice yoga in the US. Let’s say the average cost of a class is $15 (a steal in most yoga-dense areas). If every practitioner donated the cost of a single class to charity, well, that would be a lot of money. More than $550 million to be precise. It’s the tagline behind non-profit organization Yoga Gives Back: “For the cost of one class, you can change a life.”
It’s true. The difference $15 can make in the life of someone who lives on $2 a day is big. Yoga Gives Back (YGB) is the nine-year-old creation of Kayoko Mitsumatsu, a filmmaker who experienced the myriad personal benefits that consistent yoga practice was bringing to her life and felt an inherent aspect of the practice was to give back. In her case, giving back to impoverished women and children in India, the birthplace of Yoga.
YGB is a social enterprise, providing micro loans and educational scholarships to nearly 900 women and children in Karnataka and West Bengal, India. Commitments to each fund recipient are for a minimum of five years. This translates to sustained support that transforms previous realities such as extreme poverty, forced marriage, and illiteracy into social and economic opportunity. The growth of YGB is solid – experiencing about a 35% increase in donations annually. The number of fund recipients has doubled each of the last three years. This means that the number of people YGB can serve is outpacing their funding increases; a good sign.
YogaDork was invited to cover the Yoga Gives Back annual fundraiser “Thank You Mother India” in Malibu on Sunday, where filmmaker David Lynch was honored with the Namaste Award in recognition of his humanitarian work in introducing Transcendental Meditation to vulnerable populations. The fundraising dinner and event, attended by more than 200 yoga teachers, studio owners, sponsors, YGB supporters, and a healthy amount of folks with no relation to the yoga world, raised $95,000; over twice the amount from last year (I may have contributed to that figure by scoring two sweet silent auction items).
What’s most impressive, and highly apparent, is the tangible and long-lasting impact YGB is making in people’s lives. Check out some of the videos for some real stories from fund recipients. With a single employee, Kayoko, and supported by the volunteer efforts of more than 300 kind-minded people around the globe, YGB is an efficient organization. Small but mighty.
It makes one feel hopeful. Yes, nowadays the word yoga can be invoked to sell sake, but its invocation for good causes, especially good causes that are well-organized and productive, is not only possible…it’s happening. And, it’s in line with the social compact that yoga practitioners are entering into when they sign up to practice. It’s shortsighted to practice daily, or even “with consistency” and have the practice serve the individual practitioner in only an introspective way. We nourish ourselves to nourish elsewhere, and really, isn’t that what it’s all about?
Kelly Benshoof is a small business owner, communications professional and yoga teacher living in Los Angeles. She co-owns and operates InYoga Center, Inc., a yoga and teacher-training center established nearly seven years ago in the heart of LA. Kelly recently graduated from UCLA with her Masters in Public Health and is passionate about and particularly interested in the imminent convergence of integrative therapies with the U.S. healthcare system. Kelly’s ultimate goal is to help bring a “whole-person” sense of health and wellness into our culture.