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My Manduka helps me practice both how to embrace and how to let go...

-Ashley Russell
Huntsville, AL

Giving Back

Manduka recognizes an organization or individual each month for sharing the gift of yoga with those in need by donating yoga gear to support their cause.

May 2014 Archive

May 15th, 2014

Karma Yoga: Discovering Your Self in a Third World Country

This month Manduka was able to donate to Lake Tahoe Yoga who traveled across the world to Cambodia to share the mats and other goodies on the Karma Yoga Retreat.

Here is the letter we received in return from Jenay Aiksnoras, Director, Lake Tahoe Yoga about her journey:

In 2013, One World Travels director, Susan Glasson, and I casually began to toss around the idea of a Karma Yoga Retreat to Cambodia. Susan is an experienced traveler who had previously visited Cambodia three times. After her last trip, she shared photos and stories with me and I immediately began pondering how to work a trip into my schedule. From what she had shown and told me, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do a service retreat. I didn't want to take people on an expensive "yoga vacations," I wanted to go on a real deal yoga retreat.

If you are unfamiliar with the history of Cambodia, it's worth taking the time to watch the videos on YouTube. National Geographic did a story on the building of Angkor Wat (City Temple). There are also videos illustrating the trials of the Khmer (Cambodian) people throughout various civil wars and, of course, the Pol Pot Regime (or Khmer Rouge). The country has been built and destroyed over thousands of years. Its current status is only a little over 30 years old. The genocide and destruction that occurred during the Pol Pot Regime cannot be undone. The people of the country have been displaced from their homes, their families, and their livelihoods. They are still learning how to survive while holding on to as much of their culture as they can. (See photo below of the pagoda and mass graves at the Cheung Ek Killing Field Museum)

Karma Yoga is the practice of conscious action. It is to behave in such a way that begins with the consideration of how your actions affect the world, others and yourself. To act in this way is to remove Karma or "unconscious habit." In Yogic theory, if all Karma is removed (good and bad) then we are ready for enlightenment. To participate in a Karma Yoga Retreat is to do something somewhere for someone that is with no expectation of praise, reward or return. This was the goal of the project.

Due to her connections from previous visits to the country, Susan was able to help us link up with two Non-Government Organizations (NGO's). An NGO is a non-profit organization, typically set up by ordinary citizens, that benefits a group or community of people. In addition, Susan was able to establish connections with an orphanage and a hospital. The plan was to make material, energetic and in-kind donations to each location and to speak with, connect with and learn more about each one.

Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capitol, we immediately headed to the Killing Fields in order to learn about the culture and country in which we were staying. A museum of sorts, this monument is dedicated to the memory of those who were murdered during the Pol Pot Regime. The bones of thousands are stored in a large pagoda where visitors can view them, pray and offer blessings. In addition, visitors can walk the grounds and see mass grave sites, trees upon which children were beaten, read about Pol Pot and his followers, and view a short video that explains the devastation caused by the regime.

With knowledge of the country and its history, our group set out to practice Karma Yoga. Our first visit was to Nataraj Yoga; a yoga studio supported by seven partner organizations. Krama Yoga, their NGO, focuses on healing and teaching through Yoga. The Khmer word “krama” means “systematic.” Through a generous donation from yoga equipment company Manduka and help from Lake Tahoe Yoga (LTY) practitioners, we made a donation of a dozen Manduka yoga mats, 20 hand-made organic lavender eye sachets and 20 hand-made yoga straps. In addition, Jenay, offered two by-donation classes at Nataraj studio. Lake Tahoe Yoga will be continuing their relationship with Krama Yoga through special events and the sale of Cambodian rice paper Yoga mat bags (available exclusively at Lake Tahoe Yoga).

The travelers and practitioners at Lake Tahoe Yoga are grateful for the support we received from Manduka. To be able to travel across the world and donate high quality products was an honor. The studio, leaders and practitioners at Nataraj were overjoyed to receive such generous gifts.

- Jenay Aiksnoras, Director, Lake Tahoe Yoga

To read about the rest of this retreat or to join in on the next, visit Lake Tahoe Yoga.