Presenting The Namaste Award to Mallika Chopra
The first time I met LA-based Japanese filmmaker and yogini Kayoko Mitsumatsu, I was struck by her sincerity, her dedication to yoga, and her gratitude for the gifts of the practice. Kayoko’s commitment has inspired much more than a consistent personal practice; in 2007 she founded Yoga Gives Back, a nonprofit with a meaningful tagline “For the cost of one yoga class you can change a life.”
She did this to find a way to link people across cultures: those of us who benefit from the practice of yoga and those who live in the birthplace of the tradition. Inspired by Nobel Prize winner and microloan advocate Mohammed Yunus, Yoga Gives Back raises funds to support programs including microloans as well as educational scholarships for women and youth in India. Members of a worldwide ambassador program engage in fundraising efforts that have transformed communities, partnering with Indian NGOs, funding micro loans allowing women to become entrepreneurs supporting families, and allowing youth access to previously out of reach educational opportunities. The YGB Films document the organizations success stories and can be viewed on the organization’s website.
The annual global campaign, Thank You Mother India, spans September 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. Classes and events around the world contribute to the campaign, including what has become one of the organization’s signature events, the Thank You Mother India Malibu Fundraiser. The Malibu event includes dinner, silent and live auctions, community, and the presentation of The Namaste Award.
This year marks the first presentation of The Namaste Award. As Kayoko says, “The Namaste Award was established to recognize special people who have gone beyond the practice and teaching of yoga to incorporate noble humanitarian service, which elevates humankind and helps make the world a better place.” The inaugural award will be bestowed upon writer, teacher, and humanitarian Mallika Chopra, author of Living with Intent. Mallika Chopra, an outspoken advocate for the power of meditation for changing lives and the world, will share how meditation has changed her life at the Malibu event. “While it’s common for many to perceive yoga as a mere physical exercise, through deeper study, we learn that the ultimate goal of yoga is to unite with the Divine Self—and meditation plays an important role in achieving this. ‘Namaste,’ which means “the divinity in me salutes divinity in you” in Sanskrit, symbolizes Yoga Gives Back’s mission, which is to help others, and is the inspiration for the award,” says Kayoko.
In September, Mallika will be presented with the award itself, a unique piece of art created by Lakshman Rao, an art student currently living in Karnataka, India, where he is pursuing a bachelors degree in fine arts. Lakshaman Rao is himself a Yoga Gives Back success story. He is a graduate of the Deenabandhu Trust Home in Chamarajanagar, near Mysore. The home is an orphanage and 21 young people there are supported by Yoga Gives Back. An additional 35 students in the area receive higher education scholarships supported by the yoga community. Kayoko says the sculpture Lakshman Rao has created represents the spirit of unity embedded within the word “Namaste” and the unity of Yoga Gives Back’s mission. Kayoko remarks, “I cannot wait to present the award to Mallika and to share the remarkable story at the event.”
For more information about Yoga Gives Back, the Thank You Mother India campaign, The Namaste Award, to buy tickets for the Malibu event, host a fundraiser, or become a member or ambassador, visit: yogagivesback.org.
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.