Prior to moving to the USA in 1992, Kayoko was a producer/director for NHK Japan’s National Public Broadcaster, working on prime time national broadcast current affairs and documentary television programs for seven years; and cultural attaché at the Embassy of Japan in London for two years. Her passion for documentary filmmaking to bridge diverse values and cultures are rooted in the perspective gained from years of living abroad including Australia, Brazil, United Kingdom and USA.
Kayoko co-founded Yoga Gives Back in 2007, from her yoga class in Los Angeles, which has now grown to a global campaign.
Leslie Hendry is the founder of the kids' app development company, Azawhistle, which through digital media, encourages kids to learn life skills like cleanliness and organization. She's an advanced yoga practitioner with routine trips to India to study with her teacher. She is also a Gaiam Ambassador.
Before Leslie's venture into yoga she practiced law in New York and worked in London for Bloomberg LP. Micro-finance has been a special interest to Leslie after working on a documentary in Mexico about micro-finance. She's seen the proof of micro-finance in person and has made the commitment to donate a portion of the proceeds from her children's app to Yoga Gives Back.
I was born to parents studying Hare Krishna, went to a temple as a child, and was an active member of the Indian students group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I graduated with degrees in Computer Science. So maybe it's more of a surprise than anything that it took until 2009 for me to start practicing yoga.
I became a regular member of Joel's Ashtanga class at Liberation Yoga and quickly became friends with Joel and Kayoko. When I found out about Yoga Gives Back, I offered to help out in the best way I knew, by doing web development.
In the brief period of time I've practiced yoga, it has transformed my life. It's a pleasure to give back to India, where it all began, and especially to give in a way that empowers those receiving help.
Yuki is a freelance journalist contributing to Japanese magazines, newspapers and websites. Before moving to the U.S., she was an editor of a monthly women’s magazine in Tokyo. Yuki first explored yoga in 2000 at a West Hollywood gym. She thought yoga would be too easy for those who love a vigorous workout (like herself), but she gave it a try anyway, and was surprised at how hard it could be. But what really got her into it was the fact that it wasn’t a mere physical workout. The more she realized how deep it was, the further she wanted to study it. Soon she abandoned the gym for a yoga studio, and since 2001, has been practicing Ashtanga yoga exclusively.
I support Yoga Gives Back because it's driven through compassion and giving to serve one of the most important purposes in our lives, helping others. In my own ways, I have felt the challenges that life brings at times when our circumstances make the path of our hopes for the future harder to achieve. I have been so thankful when I've received help myself and I've always wanted to return the same to others.
Once I heard about YGB's mission, how they help empower women and their families in poverty to achieve their dreams. I wanted to be a part of it. My goal in college was not only to do something I loved but to also achieve the stability I needed to survive so I could reach out to others who were struggling themselves. I believe that the women in India have these same desires, to dissolve, through their work and knowledge, the struggles and limiting circumstances they all face. YGB provides a way for us to help each other accomplish the same thing, a world of love, peace, growth, where we have the ability and resources to fulfill our goals and help others in return through these actions. Yoga has brought me much love, light and healing so I'm thankful to be a part of Yoga Gives Back.
Working with YGB has been a fortunate cornerstone to my yoga practice. I know that any gesture, large or small, makes a tremendous difference in the lives of the women and children supported by YGB, and therefore a whole future population in India. Personally benefitting from the healing potential of yoga gives me incentive to continue to give back through this organization, and I look forward to a future of growth with the YGB community and those we support!
Donnatella was introduced to Yoga in January 2013 and since her first yoga class Donnatella’s mat is never too far away. Her daily practice is at Hot8Yoga in Beverly Hills and she loved it so much she successfully completed her 200 hour Hot Power Yoga Teacher Training Certification in August 2013 and now teachers Power yoga to a variety of groups in LA. Donatella is so pleased she found YGB, the people, the work and the ethos of the charity is so powerful, it got her like yoga and is so grateful YGB is a part of her life.
Lynette is an avid Ashtanga practitioner, small business owner and a single mom. "After a debilitating back injury, I began to practice yoga simply hoping for some relief from daily pain. After a few months I was not only able to avoid surgery, I fell in love with yoga. In the process of being liberated from physical pain by stretching my body, yoga also asked me to stretch my mind by challenging my beliefs about myself, my consciousness, and my community. The asanas gave me a chance to access the spiritual through the physical. The very heart of the spiritual path is a search for inner peace and when I practice my daily discipline helps translate my individual realization to the larger whole. When I take responsibility for my actions, words and deeds I can build a gateway towards the slow, steady realization of true, lasting, worldwide peace one breathe at a time. As an Ashtanga student, small business owner and single mother, I have a deep appreciation for the unique and valuable contributions of Yoga Gives Back. With all of the gifts yoga has given me physically, mentally and spiritually I feel a responsibility to empower other women in the place where yoga was born. I look forward to being a part of such an incredible organization and taking yoga far beyond my mat!
Midori is a passionate holistic wellness practitioner and a yogi, who will help with the Japanese translation of YGB contents and more.
Yoga is one of the things that I am most grateful for in my life. Yoga Gives Back is a chance to show our gratitude to the beautiful country that brought us this practice. I'm so grateful to be part of YGB as it reminds me to appreciate and remember where I came from and also give women the chance for a better life. As stated by Yogi Bhajan, "Happiness is your birthright", and everyone should have the chance for that no matter where you live.
Sho accidentally stumbled upon this wonderfully magical practice at the gym. Since then, practicing on and off, Sho's physical practice slowly grew and eventually he was introduced to mediation, philosophy, and yogic lifestyle. He now teaches yoga in yoga studios in New York.
Meng Xu is currently a graduate student at NYU, majoring in Media, Culture and Communication studies. She is from Shanghai, China, where Yoga become incredibly popular among younger generation. Under her mom's influnce, Meng started practicing Yoga when she was 14 years old. She is now living in New York, helping to promote YGB's idea to all New Yorkers.
Leah graduated from Clark University with a BA in Psychology and MBA in Global Business. After moving to New York in 2004 and beginning a career underwriting specialized insurance, she was blessed to discover Yoga which provided much needed balance to her life. She is so grateful for the mental and physical clarity engendered by the practice, and all the innovators and teachers who have allowed so many people to reap its myriad of benefits. It always puts a smile on her face to see the positive impact of those who practice and the peace they promote in others as a result. She is also happiest when capturing the world's beauty through photography, creating it through decorating and gardening, and experiencing it when playing with her son.
Jenn joined the Yoga Gives Back team in 2013, leading the first official "Thank You Mother India" event in New York with master teachers Mariko Hirakawa and Eddie Teboul. Jenn and the New York YGB team now organize several workshops, master classes and yoga events at partner studios around the city, bringing awareness and funds to this incredible cause.
Jenn has been practicing yoga since 2003, completed her 200-hour teacher training at Yoga Vida and an additional 200-hour mentorship under the guidance of master teacher Domenic Savino. In Jenn's classes, you can expect contemporary teachings, lots of hands-on assists, unique music, and a healthy workout. Reach out to Jenn on Twitter @Jennavive for updates on our next New York event.
Aditi is a 200+ hour registered yoga teacher and primarily teaches in New York City. As a yogi and teacher, she values creatvity, playfulness, self-discovery and alignment on and off of the mat. Yoga helps us find the thread between our bodies, minds, spirits and minds, so that when we create space in our bodies, we can find the space to live with grace, love and laughter.
I was first introduced to yoga in 2003 when I was injured. Using the practice to overcome my physical injuries, yoga began to resonate with me on an emotional as well as physical level, and I became a Yoga Alliance certified teacher to share with others the inner steadiness and outer sturdiness that yoga offers. But I was still hungry and desired to experience yoga at its source, which motivated me to travel to Mysore, India. There I studied Ashtanga under Saraswati, daughter of Pattabhi Jois, which led me to the orphanage. In the afternoons, several of my fellow yoga student volunteers and I took the children to the local park. I went to the orphanage to give my time, but what I gained was beyond measure. After I fell in love with yoga itself, I fell in love with an orphanage in India. Traveling to Mysoreopened my eyes to how content, open and generous the people of India are. In the West, we may be economically affluent but often emotionally starved. In India, they are emotionally thriving despite widespread poverty. India stirred a need to connect with myself on a deeper emotional level and a desire to support the people of India to further their economic stability through microfinance and "sister aid."
Yoga Gives Back is an opportunity to express my appreciation to those who gave me this beautiful gift of yoga. Yoga Gives Back allows me to participate in forging an exchange of economic and emotional wealth between the West and the East.
As a yoga practitioner myself, YGB's mission of empowering women in India through the yoga community is in close to my heart. Born and brought up in Bangalore for my first 18 years, I have seen and come across families with abject poverty, who had the potential to better themselves with financial aid. I have supported families, individuals, and have contributed to traditional colleges within my reach. I believe in YGB's intention of bringing the yoga community together to aid would-be successful women in India.
On a personal note, by God's grace I have practiced different forms of popular Yoga styles, meditations, and Tai Chi since 2001, when I started my yoga practice with the intention of improving the community by improving myself. I continue to practice yoga (Ashtanga and Ramdev) and Sri Vidya meditations. I have worked with Schlumberger (an oilfield service company in Houston) since 2001. I hold engineering degrees from IIT Madras and Texas A&M.
Natalie Roberson, RYT, is a Hatha and Yin Yoga instructor based in Pittsburgh, PA. Her classes focus on teaching a strong and varied practice with emphasis on accessibility, challenge and fun. She has experienced both the physical and emotional benefits of yoga and is grateful to be able to share them with others.
Anand Varadaraj is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Ecoforge Advisors Pvt Ltd. He has a background in renewable energy and Sustainability related projects.
Anand has a Post Graduation in Management Studies with a Bachelor Degree in Mathematics, Statistics and Economics.
Prior to EcoForge, Anand worked in GENPACT, A GE Company, where he worked on Business Market Intelligence projects in GE Aviation. He also worked on GE's Ecomagination Project on Wind Power turbines. He worked on background research on cost-effective model wind power in the world's energy portfolio for GE. He has also worked on projects with livelihoods initiatives, Training rural women panchayat members and advising farmers in water shed programs in rural Bangalore, India. On the board of Bangalore based NGO Vidyanikethan, he advises on development of the NGO in socio-economic sectors. He started a program for the Ngo's School students through corporate funding.
Anand regularly participates in conferences on renewable energy. He was invited to UN conferences on Climate change both at Bangkok and at Copenhagen. He was also interviewed by BBC London for his participation in COP15. He is also TiE member and organizes Environmental related events for them. Anand also works with International TV on Business news reports.
Anand is actively involved in finding and following existing projects of YGB in India.
Based in Mumbai, india, Akanksha was introduced to Yoga nine years ago and ever since, she has benefited from this holistic practice that unites body, mind and spirit. Yoga creates an awareness of self-being. It helps her strengthen her confidence through the years and immensely contributed towards self-discovery. Akanksha currently works for Deutch Bank as a financial associate.
I've always had an interest in volunteering and started doing it with different projects at a very young age, but Yoga Gives Back attracted me specially because of the amazing opportunity of giving something back to the birth place of yoga and show my gratitude for such a great gift. My interest in Yoga drove me to live in India for over a year to complete a Teacher Training. Learning Yoga brought balance and confidence into my life, it reinforced the principles and values that I had learned when growing up, and made me aware of my true self. It is a very useful knowledge and I've seen how it has changed the lives of many people. Anyone who has been to India will agree with me that it's a country of contrasts. The experience was overall very positive but at the same time living in India showed me a dark side too: poverty and injustice. My interest in volunteering grew enormously and also the need to share what I had learned. Being involved with Yoga Gives Back allows me to do that and also to collaborate in collecting funds to finance micro credits or educational programmes for women and children in India. My experience with YGB has only just began but I hope we can have a very long relationship.
Anya discovered yoga in 2007 initially as an antidote to working as a corporate lawyer in London. Since then, she has deepened her own practice on and off the mat and has been truly inspired by the wonderful people she has met through the global yoga community and during several visits to India.
Stephanie completed her teacher training in the Himalayas in 2010, and currently teaches in London. Her classes are strong and dynamic with particular emphasis on synchronised movement and breath (vinyasa). She aims to make her classes fun and inclusive, and is passionate about holistic medicine integrating a yin-style approach into her practice to stimulate the deep connective tissues.
Ami is a visual artist living and working in London, UK. “From the beginning, my Indian heritage planted the seed for spiritual growth. Nowadays, this seed continues to be explored, nurtured and cultivated and has brought Yoga to be an integral part of my life and well-being”.
Fiona grew in London with a fast-paced and on-the-go lifestyle. She never thought that she would connect with yoga or the discipline needed to practice. Stumblingacross a yoga class with lots of doubt in her mind she was surprised at theimpact it had on her. Fiona is now a passionate practitioner and teacher of Vinyasa Flow Yoga.
Chiara graduated from Harvard with degrees in Literature and History. As an undergraduate she became heavily involved in several charitable activities, including the running of a local homeless shelter, where she created a program to help the homeless access resources directly in the shelter. Chiara then studied economics at Sciences Po in Paris and at the LSE. She worked for a development bank in London, where she supported initiatives to promote and incorporate measures benefiting women into its investment projects. She also volunteered for HERA, a UK charity that mentors and provides entrepreneurship training to formerly trafficked women. Chiara currently lives, volunteers, and works in Paris where she has incorporated yoga as part of her daily life. Aside from yoga she paints still lives and landscapes, knits sweaters, cooks and writes stories.
Rosa is a professional photographer as well as a passionate and daily yoga practitioner currently based in Milan, Italy. "Over years of yoga practice and several travels to India, very naturally a deep gratitude has flowered in my towards this marvellous country. I must say that feeling took some time to put its roots in me and it only happened during my third trip there... I don't know how it came, but each morning I felt more and more blessed by being able to practice, to explore my inner self, to get a glimpse of a knowledge transferred in a lineage over centuries... and a deep gratitude started blooming within myself!
So when I met Yoga Gives Back by what might be called 'mere chance', I knew it was not by chance!"
Rosa is hosting her first YGB fundraiser in Milan on March 2nd!
Meriç Akay, growing up around the world with travelling parents had found a stability in practicing Yoga everywhere. She has obtained her teachers training in the sivananda Yoga Ashram's and continued with diverse trainings such as prenatal yoga, Unnata Aerial Yoga and Swaha Aerial yoga. She had the opportunity to teach and learn yoga in different locations of the world and enjoys the duality of finding steadiness and change through yoga in different phases and locations of her life. Her practice is based on a classical Sivananda Hatha Yoga, however enriched by her various experiences from different practices.
The element of karma yoga, or seva was introduced to me as an integral part of yoga from an early age, through my parents affiliation with the Bihar School of Yoga. Yoga has been a tool of great healing and transformation in my life. A personal experience of positive change can often instill a desire to share opportunity for growth (on all levels & in every sense of the word) with others. As part of my desire to find the most effective and efficient way to be of use in our global community (and in India specifically), I found YGB. A community of individuals, dedicated to their own transformation, trying to offer the same opportunity for others, who have no voice of their own. In India, a place I have called home, during many periods of my life, it is my privilege to be able to give back in anyway possible.
Elina had her first yoga class 4 years ago in a heated room Bikram style and has since go on to complete her 200 hours yoga teacher training in Vinyasa Flow in 2013. A keen traveller and avid lover of the sea, Elina tries to incorporate yoga in her life as much as possible; from visiting yoga studios in every foreign location she is in, SUP yoga to trying out underwater yoga poses whilst scuba diving (for laughs). Yoga has had a tremendous positive impact on her life, body, mind and spirit – and Elina wants to share this with her family/friends and beyond.
Roberto practices hatha yoga since 1994 when, after an injury during a Karate fight, began to attend classes, hoping to find some relief from the pain to his shoulder: from that moment never left yoga! Realizing how grateful he is to yoga, he decided to change his life, leaving his work in the communication field to become Teacher of Yoga Kids. Roberto is glad to convey the values of yoga to children.
Ayana is a singer, songwriter, and a model from Kyoto,Japan. Since she was very young, she had been taking care of her family members' illnesses. Each time she faced death, she would question, “Why does one have to die? I prayed but that didn’t help.” Her first trip abroad was to see a healer in the Philippines with a group of cancer patients. There, she saw poor kids begging for a candy. She was going to give one, but a tour guide stopped her, “ If you want to help, don’t give them a candy, but teach them how to make it.”
Ann- See is a yoga teacher, trainer, mentor and the creator of My Kind of Yoga, an Intentional Movement System that encourages individuals to take their yoga off their mats and into the world to create change. She is inspired by both ancient eastern and contemporary western yoga teachings, as well as by FlashMall"> studies into human and personal growth. Her journey is about sharing a simple, yet fascinating way of living life.
Niamh is originally from Dublin, Ireland. After spending a number of years traveling and exploring, she now lives in beautiful Fremantle, Western Australia. Yoga continuously teaches her so much to become more compassionate for herself and others, more patient and mindful. She decided to return to studies in holistic nutrition to further integrate health and awareness into her life and to help empower others on their journey. Niamh is currently undertaking hatha yoga teacher training.
Dhvani Bhatt is the Global Head of Digital Insurance for HSBC, based in HK. She has a Masters in Business Administration from Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University. Dhvani maybe a financial services professional but her personal passion is health and fitness with a specific focus on yoga and mindfulness. She is training to be a yoga teacher and hopes one day she will be able to use yoga and mindfulness to help other busy professionals find balance and space in their lives.
Dhvani was born and raised in India and is delighted to join YGB as a global member, based in HK, as it allows her to combine her passion for yoga with her deep desire to give back to the women and children of India.