When British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon spilled thousands of barrels of oil off the coast of Louisiana in 2010, local yoga teacher and activist Brock Cahill sprang into action, making several trips to the Gulf and using his personal funds to help save sea turtles and document other creatures affected by this devastating oil spill. In the process, Cahill partnered up with Sea Shepherd, scientists, researchers and marine biologists, and formed Kurmalliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to oceanic conservation and activism.

Two years later, the research submitted by Kurmalliance to the Justice Department was used as instrumental evidence in the November 2012 judgment against BP, which fined the company $4.5 billion. BP also pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges and potentially faces an additional $21 million in fines under the Clean Water Act.

It’s not often that one yogis’ passion creates real change and inspires others to engage in collective activism. Kurmalliance has done both. As an act of seva, or service, one of Cahill’s students, Jonathan Schurgin, offered to donate $100 for every yogi (up to $1000) who showed up to Cahill’s Halloween class dressed as a sea turtle. Schurgin pitched the idea to Kurmalliance apprentice Lisa Ferris, who arranged a costumed fundraiser. The challenge: dress in your very best turtle costume and handstand for a cause.

Last October, Cahill walked into class with a turtle shell on his back and taught a sea of shimmering emerald yogis. “There were green yogis everywhere,” described student Nicole Sherman. Some wore home-made turtle shells. Others adorned themselves with sea shells. After class, Ferris smiled with joy, “There’s nothing like planning something like this and not knowing if people are really going to go for it and dress up like turtles, and then seeing 31 people who came to play.”  Fellow yogi and teacher Brent Laffoon added, “It was Turtletastic!”

Throughout class, Cahill infused challenging inversions and core work while educating his students about destructive fishing practices and the environmental effects of plastic in our oceans. Yogi Sean Phelps described class: “Amazing, as always. Brock’s a rockstar. His passion always shines through. I’m glad to see everyone show up to support something that’s very dear to his heart. And since it’s so dear to his heart, it makes it easy for all of us to care about it, too.”  Student Erin Politz said she didn’t know that “fisherman fishing with their long lines for sharks catch sea turtles and just toss them out, to die.“ Yogi Laffoon added that he “did not know the stuff about plastic bags– that they look like jellyfish, which are turtles’ primary food source. “

The fundraiser brought in $2000 in pledged donations. Kurmalliance still needs to raise another $1000 to purchase just one satellite tag, to be used in helping research pacific green, and supremely endangered eastern pacific hawksbill turtles. To help raise much needed funds, please contact Lisa Ferris [email protected] or visit www.kurmalliance.org