Our mission is to bring the transformational benefits of yoga to people with limited access to this practice.
We help yoga teachers, health workers, and charitable organizations offer yoga to those in need — including veterans, prisoners, and individuals facing mental and physical illness. We also work with community partners to increase access to yoga for populations that face systemic bias and prejudice.
We support a broad spectrum of the yoga service movement; from teachers leading classes in their local communities, to seedling yoga service projects, to established programs and organizations. Our strategy focuses on three core areas:
The Give Back Yoga Foundation was founded in 2007 by Beryl Bender Birch and Rob Schware. Beryl was a yoga teacher trainer, and Rob was one of her students. As part of Beryl’s teacher training (The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute) students were asked to complete a “give back” project, which included writing, implementing, and reporting on a yoga service project. Rob, who was looking for a way to give back after his career in the World Bank, envisioned a project to help yoga teachers serve vulnerable communities. It was Beryl who suggested they turn that “give back” project idea into a nonprofit organization. Together, they established The Give Back Yoga Foundation to help yoga teachers of all traditions bring their skills and knowledge out of studios and into their communities.
The Give Back Yoga Foundation brought on its first fiscally sponsored program in 2011. The Prison Yoga Project, founded by James Fox, was a small but growing yoga program in San Quentin Prison. James and the Give Back Yoga Foundation partnered to develop and publish a yoga book for prisoners. Since joining The Give Back Yoga Family, PYP has trained more than 2,500 prison yoga teachers to offer yoga and mindfulness practices to incarcerated individuals and distributed 30,000 books to incarcerated men and women around the world free of charge.
The next fiscally sponsored program was added in a different, more sensational way. In 2013, Chelsea Roff — the founder of Eat Breathe Thrive — quit her job and launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $50K to bring yoga to people with eating disorders. 44 days into the 50-day campaign, the campaign was only at at $19K. Chelsea knew it was time to do something drastic, so she climbed onto a roof, laid down a yoga mat, and vowed to remain on that mat until the rest of the funds were raised. For five days, Chelsea held a widely-publicized rooftop yoga strike, until the campaign reached its goal of $50,000. The organization thrives under the Give Back Yoga umbrella to this day.
Over the next several years, the organization added its other legacy programs to the Give Back Yoga Foundation family. Mindful Yoga Therapy, founded by Suzanne Manafort, brings yoga to veterans and people affected by trauma. Yoga of 12-Step Recovery, founded by Nikki Myers, supports addiction recovery and relapse prevention. yoga4cancer, founded by Tari Prinster, integrates yoga into cancer treatment plans to assist with managing the side effects of treatment. The Hard & The Soft Teacher Training Programs, founded by Beryl Bender Birch, offers high quality yoga teacher training to those beginning their yoga service journey.
Today, the legacy programs continue to flourish under The Give Back Yoga Foundation umbrella. The organization has gone on to fiscally sponsor other seedling organizations, as well as kickstart new projects through its mat and small grants programs. Over the past twelve years, the organization has trained over ten thousand yoga teachers and healthcare workers, provided resources in forty-six U.S. states and nineteen countries, awarded more than $400,000 in grants, and distributed more than 20,000 mats around the world.