Our Team

USA & CANADA

LOS ANGELES, CA

YUKI SARUWATARI

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 did not know Kayoko until summer of 2012, but as soon as I heard about YGB, I knew I wanted to support her mission. I often wonder how my life would be today, had I not discovered yoga 13 years ago. I am truly grateful for what yoga has given me. Working with this team is my own little way to give it back.”
LOS ANGELES, CA

PRITHA OGDEN

Pritha Ogden is a Senior Analyst in the Distribution & Strategy group at arthouse film studio Focus Features. Prior to her current role, she spent 3 years in the Private Wealth Management division at Goldman Sachs. Currently a Thousand Oaks resident, Pritha is a proud Jersey girl who originally hails from the colorful and bumbling city of Calcutta, West Bengal. In her spare time, Pritha likes to go to the movies (a lot), travel the world and try new and interesting cardio pursuits!

“I support YGB because I was fortunate enough to be born to parents who had the means and dedication to move me and my brother out of India at a young age and give us the opportunities to pursue any manner of education and professional lifestyles that we desired. The overwhelming majority of children in my hometown are not nearly so lucky and their limited paths are decided for them at a very young age. Oftentimes these paths are restrictive and binding and irrepressible. I want to help remove these barriers to prosperity for the children of Calcutta and elsewhere in whatever capacity that I am able. The work that YGB does is instrumental in doing just that and it deserves to flourish.”
LOS ANGELES, CA

ANITA HOFFMAN

Yoga was an integral part of Anita’s upbringing, raised by a yoga teacher/yoga therapist in Los Angeles. She is currently completing a six month, 200-hour Iyengar style yoga teacher training at Casey Health Institute, moving toward qualification to teach a sexually traumatized adolescent population. Through yoga’s philosophical framework Anita found her direction in public health early on, and in recent years discovered that this would be in an entrepreneurial capacity of making health education for young people accessible and engaging on a wide scale. She graduated from The New School in New York City with a self-designed degree in Health Education & Business, and now lives in Washington, DC where she is building a new YGB network and co-organizing DC’s first YGB fundraiser event (coming up in September!).

“YGB’s message resonates with me because yoga has given meaning and direction to so much of my own life and it is profound to me that I can have a part in changing the circumstances for women and children in yoga’s place of origin. Secondly, I believe that access to education is fundamental to individual and societal wealth of health, spirit and critical thought. I am enthusiastic that my service to YGB is directly allowing children who would otherwise be prevented from this basic right to learn how to help themselves and their communities to be afforded the option to thrive.”
LOS ANGELES, CA

LIGIA FLOYD

Ligia has been practicing the beautiful art of yoga for over ten years and loves every aspect of it. One thing that attracted her to YogaGivesBack, is the fact that this wonderful organization offers a way to show gratitude for the gift of yoga that has been given. Offering support for those in need and helping women and children grow through education and self help is truly transformative.
Alberta, Canada

Ivonne L de Cervantes

Ivonne is the first volunteer for YGB and has helped many events in the USA and Canada since 2007.

Ivonne was born and raised in Mexico City. She later moved to Los Angeles, CA., where she lived for 20 years. She now lives in Alberta, Canada, where she made a home with her wonderful husband Joe and their dog, Ryker. She is a professional interpreter/translator who has worked in the field of interpreting training for the last 20 years.  Now self employed, she runs her own small interpreting agency.

I first started practicing yoga when I lived in Los Angeles. Thanks to Golden Bridge, I found Kundalini yoga; this was a life changing experience for me. 

I first started supporting YGB by volunteering every time I had a chance, because I wanted to support Kayoko, my friend and sister and because I just like to volunteer. I believe that volunteering, is a great way to give back to your community.  With time, it was clear that Kayoko’s vision, her drive and the mission of YGB were bigger than my simple desire to volunteer.  YGB was truly mobilizing and engaging the global yoga community, and together they were changing lives in India! I have seen YGB grow from a small dream to give back to India for the blessings of yoga, to what it is today; a global organization that impacts change and empowers women and children. 

Los Angeles, CA

Chi-Li Wong

Chi-Li has been helping with blog and Social Media for many years.
Chi-Li Wong is an Emmy-Nominated Film and Television Producer. Partner and President of Atchity Entertainment International, AEI, and Senior Consulting Editor for The Writer’s Lifeline, Inc. Before relocating to Southern California in 1992, she served as associate administrator of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
“I’ve witnessed YGB’s work supporting underprivileged women in becoming entrepreneurs and providing a lifeline for girls by giving them an education they’d never otherwise have access to.  YGB has rallied the worldwide yoga community, while empowering women and girls to truly change their lives. It’s a privilege to be part of the YGB mission.”
Los Angeles, CA

Tracy McGonigle

Tracy offers her graphic work for YGB’s campaigns.
Tracy Crowe McGonigle is an independent graphic designer/art director, community volunteer, native Angeleno, wife, mother of two adult sons and devoted to their Golden Retrievers.
Passionate about graphic design Tracy believes that creating meaningful design not only communicates ideas but can make a positive difference in the world. By donating her services and expertise to organizations and charities that inspire her Tracy is able to make that difference.
I was introduced to YGB by attending a fundraiser given by my mentor and yoga instructor, Jocelyn Solomen. After learning more about YGB I immediately knew I wanted to be involved. Yoga has been a blessing in my life and I can’t think of a better way to honor that then by contributing to empowering the women and girls of India with YGB.
Los Angeles

Sashi Andrew Peterson

Sashi has been helping filming for our Annual Gala as well as editing YGB Films. 

“I support YGB because its core mission is to liberate innocents from a life of oppression, and bring prosperity to those who are economically disadvantaged. It’s easy to forget about the basic struggles that the majority of the world deals with when there’s so much that we take for granted. YGB reminds us that a simple action can make a big difference, and that helping others is an integral part of a happy life.”

Los Angeles

Yasemine Isil

Yasemin helps Gala production as well as organizational managements.

Yasemin Isil was born in Istanbul, Turkey. Her passion for filmmaking brought her to Los Angeles in 2010. After graduating from the Lee Strasberg Film and TV Conservatory, she produced and directed her first film, “The Sun and The Moon.” She acted in several commercials and films, as well as co-producing “The Hollywood Turkish Film Festival” at Paramount Studios. She loves to spend time gardening, meditation and sound bath. 

“Change starts with awareness and education. YGB provides them both for children and women in need and for us, through peace, compassion, and integrity.”

Seattle, WA

Lily Miller

Lily was first introduced to vinyasa yoga in Palo Alto in 2006 and has been head-over-heels in love with yoga ever since. She completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training in Osaka in 2017 with the intent of deepening her understanding and practice of ashtanga yoga while balancing her corporate work life, desire to be active, and passion for learning. Currently she is still working in the corporate world, and enjoys yoga, hiking, and baking to stay active and mindful.

When I first learned about YGB, I was shocked to learn about the incredible impact of the cost of one yoga class. The least I can do to give back to India, the birthplace of yoga, is to offer support for women and children to get the education they deserve. I love that YGB is located globally and gives me the opportunity to connect with people all over the world. I have met so many inspiring people through YGB and we all have a common passion to make a difference. I am truly grateful to be a part of this community.

Los Angeles

David Yunesian

David Younesian offers his bookkeeping work as well as volunteering for Annual Gala. David is an independent bookkeeper who was introduced to the YGB by Kenneth Atcitty.

Since I started to work as an independent contractor for YGB, I started also volunteering for YGB’s Gala. I believe in its core mission of giving back and help undeserved women and children.

Los Angeles

Chris Kuhne

Chris has been helping with YGB FILMS especially transcribing all the footage of Seva Trip for two years. 

Christopher Kühne is a screenwriter and story analyst with a focus on the psychoanalytic and symbolic aspects of commercial storytelling stemming from a classical approach. He’s collaborated with international experts such as Spanish award-winning director Emilio Ruiz Barrachina and Hollywood producer Ken Atchity. 

I support YGB to help spread the message that we’re all living stories conforming one big story in which the only way forward is to help each other by giving back. The universal story is one.

Los Angeles

Sarah Yap

Sarah Yap is part of the Social Media team for YGB’s campaign.
Sarah is currently pursuing her MBA at Pepperdine University. Before her graduate studies, she spent 3 years working as a product developer and buyer at an eCommerce furniture company.
“YGB has become a channel for me to participate and contribute to its beautiful community by using my creative skills in social media content generation to engage with sponsors and yogis who support the same cause.Practicing yoga has helped me in many ways, and being around the YGB community empowers me, frees me and centers me. I am delighted and proud to be involved and will continue my best to engage. Breathe Deep !”
Los Angeles, CA

Jonathan Mills

Jonathan designs for YGB’s campaigns.

Jonathan Mills is painter and graphic designer committed to furthering the impact of Yoga Gives Back’s unique purpose using his skills as an artist

I was introduced to Kayoko by Lila French who at the time was designing the backends of my websites. When I met Kayoko, I immediately knew I wanted to be involved. Yoga Gives Back is an unusual charity, decisively empowering the women and girls of India, and it has been a pleasure and privilege to be able to help further this intelligent cause for several years now with my designs.

EUROPE

LONDON, UK

RAQUEL GUZMAN

ExperienceYoga
LONDON, UK
“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.”
MAASTRICHT, THE NETHERLANDS

MIRIAM SALENTJIN

“I started my own company in July 2008. Two years later in 2010, the business was going great but I did not feel happy with empty feelings, no happiness. Working 7 days around the clock without any form of relaxation. I had all kinds of complaints both physically as mentally.. Breathing disorder, panic attacks, muscle aches, joint problems, stomach pains.. I went through numerous check ups and scans with several doctors but nothing serious would come up. My doctor suggested yoga. I gradually discovered the benefits of yoga and my body as well as my mind began to transform and brought balance to my body. Also yoga stimulated me to change my eating habits, eating healthy, taking rest and consciously listening to my body. Also I began to take free time away from my laptop accepting that it was not necessary to always be on top of my work.. Answering mails a few hours later would not be any harm..something which was not an option before!! Yoga is a way of life and it is a process of transformation.. It takes time but it definitely worked out for me and I am still growing. Also you become happier from within and you want to share this with other people who are less blessed with fortune and happiness. It can be so easy to share your happiness by a simple smile.. a hug..a small gift.. That is why I want to support YGB. It changed my life totally and I am still growing. Once you get attached more deeply into yoga, there is no way back because you want to keep on growing and sharing.. I will do my best to support YGB in my special way which is supplying nice merchandise to sell and whatever the team comes up with where I can be helpful.”

UK

DONATELLA HEYWORTH

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.

“Since an early age I have always been an athletic individual and when I found yoga it was mainly for fitness, but yoga became so much more than that. It became a part of my life when I needed it the most. I love the Asana practice, but the union of body, mind and breath has been where my soul has found its place. YGB was so inspiring and does such amazing work, it felt right to be a part of the charity helping this beautiful yoga legacy I daily participate in.”
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

SARAH COX

“2 years ago I met a new friend, called Yoga. We were strangers to each other, but from the first moment we met, we were connected. Yoga gave me new friends, new challenges, new vision and above some flexibility. Now it’s time to give something back, with the same dedication as the organization Yoga Gives Back and the many ambassadors all over the world. Together we can try to make the difference. It’s an honor to be part of YGB.

INDIA

BANGALORE

ANAND VARADARAJ

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.

India

Natesh Ullal

Natesh has been heling with YGB Film production on site in India for many years, filming and translating. 

Natesh Ullal is a Mangalore based film maker with 30 years of experience in filmmaking. 
He specializes in documentary films, community television and video production workshops which he leads for children at Deenabandhu Home. 

“I support YGB because it is a movement of Yoga practitioners who are grateful to the source of their yoga skills and knowledge. YGB has created a space to nurture yoga practitioner’s sense of gratitude into action for positive impact. This action makes me see smiles on the faces of most deprived women and children of India. I believe that this action will have ripple effects in making the world a kinder and happier place.”

ASIA

SINGAPORE

JULES TAN

“Having been accidentally led into beading, I am able to put the focus of intention I’ve learnt in yoga to good use and started OHMywaves as an experimental business venture. Stumbled onto Yoga Gives Back, I’m truly humbled by its scope of support to the women and girls in India. Being regularly immersed in charity work all my adult life, I found that nothing else resonated as deeply with me, my journey through yoga, the humility I have learnt from the capricious waves, and a desire to give back. Beading with intention, combining crystals and designs inspired by life’s journeys, and the every moving wave, giving back to the less fortunate; there is no better dance in life”

Singapore

Kavita Chandran

Kavita Chandran is the former editor and publisher of Yoga Journal Singapore. She now runs Yogahood, an online yoga magazine, and a wellness company called Sankia Wellness in Singapore. Kavita is a yoga teacher and international journalist who has lived in the United States, Switzerland, India and Singapore.

Kavita is a certified yoga teacher and did her teacher training at IndeaYoga in Mysore under Bharath Shetty, one of India’s most experienced and respected yoga teachers who studied under BKS Iyengar. Kavita teaches Hatha with Vinyasa in Singapore, and is also the author of the book The Head that Won’t Stand.

Prior to Yoga Journal, Kavita was a financial journalist with news companies such as Reuters, Bloomberg and CNBC. She also moderates and hosts wellness events worldwide.

I heard about Yoga Gives Back at an event in Singapore and donated to the cause immediately – it seemed so aligned with my own mission. As I continued to find out more, I was fascinated to learn about Kayoko and her cause. As an Indian who has lived abroad for many years, first in the U.S. and now Singapore, I have always looked for ways to help the poor and needy in India. I also support another group called ‘You Can Free Us’ that rescues young girls from sex slavery in India. As a yoga lover and Indian, I feel extremely grateful to be part of Kayoko’s YGB team and her mission to give back to the birthplace of yoga by providing funds for the social and financial inclusion of the poor, but enterprising, women in India. Through my magazine, Yogahood, and its reach, I hope to support YGB in any way possible.   

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