THE BLOG
01/30/2013 03:49 pm ET | Updated Apr 01, 2013

Yoga Gives Back Fights Poverty in India, One Woman at a Time

Yoga in America is growing exponentially and it's apparent that women have all but dominated the practice. According to recent statistics, 72 percent of the 15 million people who practice yoga in the United States are women. With millions of women practicing yoga, it is no surprise that billions of dollars are spent on yoga products every year.

In conjunction with all of the money spent on yoga, yoga has afforded many women in this country a new lease on life. From gaining physical strength to increasing self-confidence, yoga serves the modern Western woman very well.

However, it is of grave importance that we do not use yoga to perpetuate our freedom to self indulge. We could consider taking our newfound inspiration we've gained via yoga, and use it to empower other women, who may be less fortunate.

We can start by expressing gratitude for the impact yoga has had on our lives by honoring its origins and the gracious people who brought it to us.

Somewhere along the ancient Indus River Valley some 5000 years ago marked the first evidence of yoga. As India developed as a culture, yoga infiltrated the country, not just as a part of the Hindu tradition, but also as a way to live, honorably and with humility.

Rich in spirituality, yet struggling to survive, millions of women in India live on less than $2.50 a day. Many Westerners cannot fathom the kind of a lifestyle that only $2.50 might afford them. The amount of money one woman in America spends on an average pair of yoga pants equates to about one month's salary for a poverty-stricken family in India.

Is it possible we can contribute to the livelihood of hundreds of women who are struggling to care for themselves, and their children?

What is being done?

Organizations such as Yoga Gives Back have created coalitions with several yoga-related businesses. Their effort is to help fund micro-financing programs that provide loans to poverty-stricken women of India who are otherwise unable to receive monetary assistance.

Yoga Gives Back has created the "Sister Aid" direct funding program, which provides educational opportunities, vocational training, and micro credit programs for mothers, young girls, and orphans.

Partnering with local Non Governmental Organizations in India, "Sister Aid" offers a very innovative program. It charges no interest on micro loans, but, instead requires each loan recipient to save at least 50 rupees a month for their daughter's higher education, while Yoga Gives Back funds current education cost for one daughter per family.

Impoverished mothers are empowered to earn their own money with the prospect of giving their daughters much better lives with an education that they themselves could never receive. This program also prevents many young daughters from being forced to marry at very young age, especially in rural areas of India.

Why target women?

Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Recipient known for his successful micro-finance programs, believes:

When a destitute mother starts earning an income, her dreams of success invariably center around her children. A woman's second priority is the household. She wants to buy utensils, build a stronger roof, or find a bed for herself and her family. A man has an entirely different set of priorities. When a destitute father earns extra income, he focuses more attention on himself. Thus money entering a household through a woman brings more benefits to the family as a whole.

Kayoko Mitsumatsu, founder and president of Yoga Gives Back also explains, "Women are the best poverty fighters. The most effective return on investment for development dollars is an investment in women."

It was believed that historically, the women of India were, among other things, not even allowed to practice yoga. Today, women still suffer inequality unimaginable to most Westerners, as seen from the recent, fatal gang rape in Delhi.

Of the millions of women in America who are free, and free to practice yoga, many are also free to help their sisters who would greatly benefit from as little as the cost of one single yoga class.

Who is involved?

Spirited individuals, yoga studios, and yoga entrepreneurs donate a portion of their profits or personal funds to invest in the programs that Yoga Gives Back spearheads with such dedication.

Just recently, Kaivan Dave, founder of myInsens, a successful purveyor of high quality incense, joined forces with Yoga Gives Back. In addition to generously supporting the local Indian villagers that hand roll every stick of myInsens, Kaivan promises to share his company's successes so that the women and children of India may prosper.

As a nation that is in love with everything yoga, it is time we all show some respect to the people who gave us such a gift. Companies such as myInsens believe in social responsibility, and social responsibility makes the world a better place. Through yoga, we can all take part in making this happen.

How can you help?

Aim to buy your yoga products from companies that support the efforts of Yoga Gives Back, such as myInsens.

Reach out to your local yoga studio and discuss the opportunities for creating a channel to fund Yoga Gives Back.

Keep practicing yoga because as yoga helps you, it will inspire you to help others.

Visit yogagivesback.org and learn how you can join forces with wonderful people from all over the world who are helping wonderful people who desperately need it.