It's amazing how, for many of us in the West, yoga starts as a physical exercise program -- like kickboxing or jazzercise. But what it reveals in each of us is something far more profound: our purpose. Through the physical practice (asana), we become open to the service of others (our dharma). I challenge anyone to take a yoga class and not feel the desire to give to others.
That drive to serve is what draws us together as a community: the Yoga Community has a divine spirit, but does it have the tools to make a difference? My wife and I had an idea to help ALL of us use our practice to do good. Together.
On Sunday Sept. 9th, 2012, we will begin a sunrise yoga class at the Sydney Opera House. Then every 15 minutes, following the direction of the sun, a new class will begin, spanning over 30 countries, 200 events and 20,000 yogis until our final event at sunset on the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. This will be the world's first 24-hour yoga relay -- the Yoga Aid World Challenge.
Our goal is to create a sense of connectedness, consciousness and global responsibility in yogis everywhere -- and raise $1 million for charity projects around the world. With eight weeks to go, we have 140 events in over 25 countries confirmed, with 70 events across America alone.
Many people ask us, how can a husband and wife living in Sydney, Australia -- at the outback of the world -- make this possible? Our reply is simple: It's all about the yoga.
Take a class with a spiritual yoga teacher and it will change your life forever. This is how it started for myself and my Yoga Aid co-founder (and wife), Eriko Kinoshita. We met in a yoga studio, two people suffering from broken marriages searching to love again. Hiding behind our pain, sense of failures and fighting our mid-life fears. Yet for both of us, we found the yoga mat provided a safe place to heal, let go and love again.
Eriko and I had already had established careers (myself in technology, Eriko in banking), financial success and grown-up children by the time we met. We were at a point in our lives where the corporate boardroom offered no comfort anymore, and for both of us, yoga was revealing our new purpose and next journey.
Together we created Yoga Aid, a fundraising platform and million-dollar foundation with a goal of empowering individuals to make changes in their own lives through charitable giving -- what we call Giving for Living. Through Yoga Aid, we have supported some amazing work in the world: an orphanage in India, yoga teacher training in Kenya, setting up a computer lab at a school in Uganda and many local community outreach programs here in Australia.
The foundation organized fundraising events (called Yoga Aid Challenges) in Sydney in November 2007 as a way to open the door for others to experience the joy of giving. Using our backgrounds in technology and finance, Eriko and I developed a website anyone can use to collect charitable donations safely over the internet. And because we built the platform as a service to our community, we choose to run Yoga Aid without user fees of any kind. This means that unlike other fundraising websites, 100 percent of all donations collected through Yoga Aid go directly to charity. In the first year alone, our local Sydney yoga community raised over $100,000 on the Yoga Aid platform and culminated with a yoga class that celebrated all of the community's efforts.
It all just seemed to blossom from there. The people who came to our first Yoga Aid Challenge event were so happy to have such a tangible connection between their personal yoga practice and their desire to serve others, they inspired us to host more events around the world. It is a beautiful connection we all share.
The more events we held, the more people would ask us if they could host a Yoga Aid Challenge in their community, in their studio, in their country. Yoga Aid has since become a turn-key set of tools for anyone to use to fundraise through yoga. Over six years, the Yoga Aid community has hosted more than 250 events in 10 countries and raised more than $1.3 million for our charity projects.
This year, we are simply providing a vehicle for the yoga world to come together, a vehicle powered by the act of Yoga itself.
If you are inspired to act, register as a Challenger (fundraiser) or Ambassador (event host) at YogaAid.com.
Love to all,