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Corn is one of the yoga world's biggest champions of service. In 2008, she co-founded Off the Mat Into the World—a grassroots organization that raises awareness and funds for international causes. The program offers an annual Global Seva Challenge, a fundraising effort that has raised more than Si million for communities in need. Participants pledge to raise $20,000 from their local communities during one calendar year. If they succeed, they arc rewarded with a trip abroad to work as humanitarian aides alongside Corn. In 2009, Off the Mat worked in Cambodia; this year, participants went to Uganda. The current challenge is to raise money to help people with AIDS in South Africa.
Off the Mat also offers leadership training to the participants in its programs. Many go on to start their own service projects around the world. For instance, a group of participants from the Uganda Seva Challenge, who worked alongside refugees from the civil war there, have started Seva Uganda to raise scholarship money for refugee children.
Beryl Bender Birch, one of the First Americans to teach Ashtanga Yoga some 30 years ago, is delighted that service is a part of so many people's practice today. The creator of Power Yoga has always required her teacher trainees to engage in some form ofservice. In 2007, inspired by the efforts her students were making to serve, she founded the Give Back Yoga Foundation, which gives grants to support seva projects withi n the yoga community.
Bender Birch says that the pressing environmental and social crises we see all around us are a call to action. Yoga students, strengthened by their practice, can make a difference.
"As practitioners of any spiritual discipline, we are required to become spiritual revolutionaries," says Bender Birch. "We have an obligation to share with the world the benefits of our practice." *
Carmel Wroth is a lifelong student of yoga and an associate editor at Yoga Journal.
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