Yoga Journal - - LIVE WELL - give­back­


STARTED Bhakti Chai, she was a 32-year-old sin­gle mother work­ing full time as a de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor for a non­profit. She didn’t in­tend to launch a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar busi­ness: It started in­no­cently enough af­ter a trip to Mum­bai, In­dia, when Eddy started brew­ing her ver­sion of a spicy chai tea she was served there. Years later, when mak­ing her own recipe at home, she rec­og­nized a hole in the mar­ket for a craft­brewed spicy masala chai. She started by sell­ing to cafés near her home, and slowly the com­pany grew into a boom­ing busi­ness.

From day one, Eddy— a long­time yogi—made so­cial ac­tion part of Bhakti’s mis­sion. “We started from very hum­ble be­gin­nings,” she says. “I didn’t have any money, or par­ents with money, which in­spired me to sup­port a lot of smaller or­ga­ni­za­tions who were do­ing good in the world.”

In 2015, Eddy de­cided to com­bine all of Bhakti’s phil­an­thropic ef­forts—more than $350,000 in char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions world­wide—into one plat­form called GITA Giv­ing (GITA stands for Give In­spire Take Ac­tion).

To­day, GITA Giv­ing do­nates money to a to­tal of 25 or­ga­ni­za­tions, many of which sup­port women and girls—a long­time pas­sion of Eddy’s. The goal is to do more than sim­ply write checks—it’s to also give smaller or­ga­ni­za­tions ac­cess to Bhakti Chai’s en­vi­able plat­form. “I also wanted to make it eas­ier for or­ga­ni­za­tions to ap­ply for grants,” says Eddy. “When I worked full time in the non­profit sec­tor, I used to spend 90 hours com­plet­ing one ap­pli­ca­tion for $1,500.”

Beyond help­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions gather sup­port, Eddy is hope­ful her plat­form in­spires yo­gis ev­ery­where to take ac­tion in ways that most res­onate with them.

“We can pray, re­peat our mantras, and send peace and love into the world, but the ac­tion piece is re­ally where change hap­pens,” says Eddy. “Check in with your own pas­sions and see where your skills can best be used in the world. Do some­thing.”

In­spired to give back, but still un­sure where or how to be­gin? A new, free on­line course from the Give Back Yoga Foun­da­tion and Lu­l­ule­mon’s Here to Be pro­gram may help you find the an­swers. We talked to Rob Sch­ware, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Give Back Yoga Foun­da­tion, about the course, aptly ti­tled “How Can I Serve?”

Yoga Jour­nal What mo­ti­vated you to cre­ate “How Can I Serve?”

Rob Sch­ware Ev­ery morn­ing I wake up and ask my­self, “How can I serve?” This course is a prac­ti­cal way to an­swer that ques­tion and give back to yoga teach­ers around the coun­try. It was cre­ated to sup­ple­ment 200and 300-hour yoga teacher train­ing cur­ricu­lums, which don’t tend to go into depth about yoga ser­vice. You’ll gain ac­cess to true ex­perts—yoga ser­vice lead­ers who know what it means to serve and how to get started—and six hours worth of re­sources in the form of video, pod­casts, and printed ma­te­ri­als.

YJ Who are the teach­ers in­volved?

RS We’ve filmed some of the lead­ing lu­mi­nar­ies in yoga ser­vice, in­clud­ing Beryl Ben­der Birch, a yoga ac­tivist and spir­i­tual rev­o­lu­tion­ary; James Fox, founder and di­rec­tor of the Prison Yoga Project; Nikki My­ers, founder of Yoga of 12-Step Re­cov­ery, and so many more. These light work­ers are in­spir­ing ex­am­ples of why it’s im­por­tant to get in­volved, and they give prag­matic sugges­tions for how to do just that.

YJ What is your hope for yo­gis who com­plete the course?

RS Ul­ti­mately, we want to in­spire yo­gis ev­ery­where to take ac­tion. Of course, the Give Back Yoga Foun­da­tion is a great place to start. And for those who want to take the next step, we of­fer five dif­fer­ent pro­gram train­ings, each of which go into great de­tail about how to serve a spe­cific pop­u­la­tion. To take the course, visit

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