YogAct is an association aiming to encourage social activism in a responsible and direct way through yoga. flowful meets… talks with the founder Monica about their purpose to boost the communication and cooperation among people that have ideas and projects in common and share an ethical, spiritual, humanist and ecologist vision of social change.
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Today, flowful meets… YogAct. To be more precise, Monica, who founded YogAct one year ago. Monica is a wholehearted yogi- she quit her job in 2014 and found her passion in yoga therapy and permaculture. YogAct is a non-profit organization that promotes social activism under the values of yoga. The organization both runs projects to create social change but also aims to function as a network for people with common ideas and projects to communicate and cooperate.
We met Monica in Thailand where YogAct was working on several projects- especially with children. We talked to her about the beginning of YogAct, the challenges of crowdfunding, spirituality, and why yoga and its values changed her life.
YogAct: I was very touched by many of my masters who really emphasize that one of the biggest tools in yoga was to do service, was to serve. I realized how much we don’t do it. We don’t do it not because we don’t want to do it. It is just because we haven’t been educated for that, we haven't seen it so much and we always feel that to be, to serve, is like we have to be the Mother Theresa of Kalkutta. So and sometimes we just don't know how to do it. And sometimes we don't even know for what, right?
YogAct is Monica’s way to serve. As a yoga therapist and a certified yoga teacher for kids who is experienced in yoga for children with special needs she mostly works in schools and communities. But as she experienced that it can be hard to find opportunities to give service she also wants to create a platform for people who want to engage. As a yogi by heart Monica linked everything to the values of yoga.
YogAct: Activism is to act. And we need to do it. In this case I think it is, we go out a little bit of the image of yogis looking for peace, sitting, which is also good. But I think we're a bunch of people who are also doing actions for changing. So, we started this association and the fact was to how to structure everything under the values of yoga. But at the same time we wanted to use these values in order to create an environment to learn more about sustainable living. And how do we find this link, between both of them? And this is why we call it YogAct. So it is yoga and activism as tools for social change. Well, of course now we are a very small group. Actually it is funny because in one year from two years now we are maybe more. We are maybe 12 people but we still try to find,... You know when something grows so fast we also need to put some grounding in and to find another structure. Because also to move, I mean we like to move with prana, but we do not move with prana to other countries, so we also need to start to find funding and something like that, yeah.
The philosophy of yoga is based on 8 limbs or stages. These eight stages basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. The first two, the so called yamas and niyamas are the most important ones for YogAct. To put it in a nutshell: the yamas address one's ethical standards, sense of integrity and are focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. For example, nonviolence and truthfulness. The second limb, the niyamas, are more about… let’s say self-discipline in action. Developing your own personal meditation practices, for example.
YogAct: So the first two limbs are quite important because it is the values about how you are related to the other ones and how you are related to yourself. We believe that..., of course there are a lot of visions today that are trying to fix the world and of course we want to do that. But the thing is we still believe we want to be the change that we want to see.
So for that, we really need to start working on ourselves. So it is great to have all the other techniques outside but we need to start to work inside. And for that, yoga gives you these very valuables tools to work on yourself. Which is not easy. But is already very good to have some structures.
So when you link yoga to this values, to which ever technique or whichever vision, because maybe it can be also somebody who is, I don’t know a osteopath, you know? It can be related also to the values of yoga because of course the osteopath is trying to fix something that is in the person that is not feeling well, and we already know that all the illness in the body is a reflect of something that is happing in your emotions and your mental side. Yoga is also telling you this. So we will link it. Why you are sick? Okay let's think about it. Maybe we're gonna talk about the values of how you are related to yourself. It is a whole world inside all this values. So we try to link it. Try to link all the time and this is the way we do it. And in some other things it is more complicated of course but we always find a link with the values of yoga.
YogAct believes that social change starts within you but is also very much linked to sustainable living. And when it comes to sustainability, permaculture is an approach that with its design concept of earth care, fair share and people care fits very well.
YogAct: Because we wanted to link YogAct to sustainable living so it is linked to permaculture as it is linked to other techniques and visions that want to create that, right? So it is not only linked to permaculture of course. Of course today we have more people involved in YogAct who have more background in permaculture. Like me, I also did a PDC, my companion is also working on it and did a PDC; and the people in Spain are from permaculture also. So yeah, maybe permaculture is kind of the vision that is more present in our organization. But it does not mean that we don't welcome other visions.
For now, the projects of YogAct are doing exactly this: linking yoga and permaculture. Using the power of both techniques, YogAct visited schools and communities in India, Nepal and Thailand where they introduced yoga techniques for the classroom and did workshops on permaculture to create meaningful experiences for the students, for example in the garden.
Furthermore, Monica worked with children with special needs and gave guidance to their parents to benefit the children physically, cognitively, and psychologically; in doing so, the sense of sustainability is always in their mind.
YogAct: The teachers are very very important. Because of course we try to do these programs as much sustainable as possible which means that we don’t give workshops directly to the children, we do, but firstly we give training to the teachers.
We give a training to the teachers, than they see us; how do we do the workshops and then we invite them to co-facilitate with us and then we leave them alone. We see how they are doing and then we go. This is the best we would like to see in the school.
The thing is just that of course if the teachers don't believe what they are teaching, so of course it becomes more difficult. So I think this is the part that is the most important. The teachers, the parents, they really need to empower that first. In order to change themselves. For us, this is the most important thing. That's why in the beginning we give much more input in talking with the teachers, the parents, or the community.
For example, with the children with special needs we give the training to the parents and the children are amazing. They really like to do yoga because it is more a one to one session. And of course they find themselves in a safe space, in a dignity place, and their place. This is the moment that they do yoga. This is the moment where mama and papa helped me and which is very beautiful and interesting to see how it changes the patterns.
And when I talk about yoga values because again, the first one, how do I live with the other ones? This is very important for the future now. Because in a moment, we will be in a need to live with other ones in communities, or probably not only living but working together. Because it is not going well. It is not getting better. And we are still living in this individuality. Me, me, me, me, me. We are not going any place. So yeah, you see that with the children. You see that when you start doing... The first thing we do is working in a circle and telling them you are not learning alone, you are learning with other people. So you see this question in the children. Maybe it is a little thing that changes but this is enough for us. This is the changes we see.
Thinking about the values of Yoga, spirituality comes to my mind and I am wondering how YogAct integrates this in their approach.
YogAct: Spirituality will be always your role in the universe. Why am I here for? Why this human experience? And just asking yourself this question you are already being a spiritual person. Because you are questioning yourself. Of course there are people who will go mad for deep and more metaphysic if you want and some other will just sit down around the fire and ask ourselves about this. The fact of asking you this question is already giving you a path to evolve not only what would you think is only material but with something more deep. YogAct is this. It is like an alarm, not an alarm like a bell telling you to not forget. We are not only material we are something else. You don't need any structure; you don't need any teachings to know about that. You already are a living miracle if you want. But sometimes that is why I think nature is very important because when you see nature you can see all this, all the time. So, we are not always teaching very deep on that we are just trying to get people conscious about it.
And service is such a good thing to realize. Because when you... like I was saying, that journey of spiritualism is to remember that you are in love. And the human experience is to share it. You realize that when you are doing service. When you don't expect anything and you are helping. This is the moment you realize that you are actually in a human experience but being a spiritual person.
How about children and spirituality? How does that work?
YogAct: This is the easiest. They are like a sponge. So yeah, the children it will be, you... For us, it is very much difficult because we are already conditioned, the adults, right? So to change that for the adults it is not impossible but it takes longer. Children... sometimes people think we need to teach children spirituality, but actually children they are only witnesses of what the others are doing. So as much as you are spiritual, your teachers, your school, that’s why we want to go so much to the schools. As much the children will see that their family, their contacts, the school is in touch with this kind of spirituality they will just do it. They will just remember because they don't need to be taught about that, they will just witness that. That’s why it is much easier to tell the children to realize by themselves. You don't need to teach.
YogAct dreams of creating a worldwide network that links all people who want to serve, to change something. This doesn’t have to do with yoga; it can be about everything. All these agents of change can find other peoples who have the same values and ideas; and they can exchange, work with each other and develop new projects.
Furthermore, YogAct wants to function as an project incubator and provide people with everything needed to start or create a project. This open source helps others to get ideas and a structure
YogAct: Of course you need a willing but you need a structure also. In a way giving you this structure, it is not a business plan, but it gives you a plan to let you know how and where do you have to start, what are the questions you have to ask yourself and what elements you will need. And to let you know that in this website, in this web of live, there is a lot of resources you can ask for and you do not need that much of paid resources as we think.
To the incubator projects will be that because we really want to push people to tell them they can do projects; and this comes with the first thing that I said about service. Let’s do more projects, we need to help more and we can do it together. I mean, me and YogAct, we can help in the consulting as much as we can, of course. We also have a platform of crowdfunding so people do not need to go to look all different kinds of crowdfunding platform, they can do it in ours also. This is the main dream, to finally find a network with people that we can co-create more projects. Because sustainability is growing but still we want to in this moment of transition, I think what is really important is all this values of human beings.
I really believe in this networking that we want to create. This, together with the incubator projects, I think this will be a massive thing. There are so many people who have their job and they are pretty happy with that but they are willing to do projects. But sometimes it is just very difficult for them. They feel alone and say, oh, we like to do it, but how do I do it? I think, in this matter YogAct can be a friend. This friend in this specific thing. There are already other organisms that are doing this kind of thing. We, what we are trying to do is from, again, from the heart, from the human experience, telling okay, we will try to do our best and we are here, you are not alone, let’s do it together. And this is mainly what we want to do. And of course the idea is to put the toe in the service. Let’s do it, let’s do it, we can do it. Yeah, mainly because most of the time when you think about service it is very classical. You think you have to go to some place and do this kind of voluntary. No, you can do it from your desk (...). I think we are trying to mix this service with the new tools of contemporary life. You know, we can do things from the computer, we can do things from another perspective.
And this is something Monica emphasized on when I asked if she has any lessons learned to share.
YogAct: I think the first one and the most important is I started alone. Maybe now many people tell me, oh, this is so gorgeous. Yeah, but I could have done it with much less pain. Because this is the thing. Sometimes we jump into the swimming pool because you think you're alone. And nobody can follow your dream. Or again the ego.
Maybe the people they don't follow the way I want. If you are a perfectionist this is much more difficult. So I think the first mistake was that. And then it took me time to realize that I needed help. And when I said that, help came.
And you are not only helped you understand the people are serving and with you. And finally, the main thing is happening even before we start serving others. It's already happening, the people are working with you. So yeah, i think this was the first mistake. And the second thing, I think is also the... We always want to do so much. And I think we put ourselves a lot of goals. We want to do this and that. We want to do the yoga and the permaculture, with the children and this and that.
We realized also it was a lot of work and that we needed maybe to achieve less but more in quality. And that was also a very good lesson. Because we are used to do this. People tell you as much as you do as much you get success. Which is not true, you know, sometimes you just need to do impact maybe the impact has to be in only one person and it's already enough but we wanted to do a lot of things.
In Nepal, we had this people who told us 'oh, we have this organization, they work with children rescued from sexual trafficking, can you do it?' Yes, why not! So again, I was of course prepared by theory but not really mentally. But I said okay. Of course I asked for coaching from a yoga therapist that I know, she is also a psychiatrist. So we've worked out a very good protocol to go with them. It was like preparing to going to a war, something like that, and then when you come, again, you see this children, so happy and with a smile from ear to ear and you are like, I mean, how? How are you like this? And again you give all what you give and they are so resilient and how much yoga can help them, it is just amazing.
For their very first project in India and Nepal YogAct started a crowdfunding campaign cause, yeah, as Monica said, prana doesn’t bring you to different countries… It was very successful and they made the awesome amount of 4,000€.
YogAct: Oh yeah, the crowdfunding campaign was one of our biggest lesson. And at the same time it was very good because this is when you realize how much things you can do. But the crowdfunding, first of all, is about a very good structure. The crowdfunding can work very very very good but you need to be a lot, well not a lot of people but at least 4-5 people. But engaged. Completely. With this you can raise as much as you want. It's a lot of work. And of course we thought we could do this in one month. Ha! Again, good lesson. We did it, yeah, of course, when I said it's not the best thing I've done, I mean perfectly done, it was very good and it worked, it was good but for sure you need time to prepare the crowdfunding. If you prepare your crowdfunding very good it's already a big step.
Whoever done it before knows that crowdfunding is not only a shit load of work but also can be a very emotional thing. But Monica wouldn’t be YogAct if she wouldn’t link it to the values of yoga.
YogAct: So, this is something to work on how not to take it personally. And then again, the values of yoga come again here. You are creating a massive thing, people are already helping, why think about that. People do their best. All the time. They don't do it in the way you want probably but they always do their best. So yeah, the crowdfunding is interesting. It's not only funding money it's about relationships, and also putting your goals and especially in the end, almost like 2, 3 days, is how people mobilize and they help and you know it's quite, it touches a lot the heart of people who are doing the crowdfunding.
Of course the crowdfunding will never move alone. You need to move it. People need to move it. And this is the thing, why the crowdfunding is called crowd; it's not only you who move it. You start, you say, ey, maybe you forgot us, and then they, oh, and then move it and share it, it is very beautiful to see it.
Despite all this workload she has, Monica is a fun-loving person with lots of energy. You can definitely sense that she is dedicated to what she does by all means- which is something I totally admire. Well, I think everyone knows how hard it can be to motivate oneself. Yep, and I admit, a lot of times my weaker self takes over. So, I wanted to know. What is it that keeps her going?
YogAct: To do what I want. To do what I really want. I think all of us we have this things when you were, I don't know some people leave work and they always just want to finish working to go home and finish their job, at least that was my case. Not because I didn't like my job, I used to love my job and maybe I still love tourism I really like it and I really love my colleagues and the company and everything but I was not giving something to the world, no. I was not being useful for my spiritual part if you say or not, just I was always complaining about things. I was why the world goes like that and everything. Now, I can go to sleep good. Tired but good. In a way sometimes you can just say that if you die tomorrow you have tried to do your best. So this is what I wanted to do. And yeah, it was kind of a dream and now I'm living it, you know. It is very nice to see that it's possible, right? It's kind of a legacy. That you live. Even if it doesn't work tomorrow. Things that we have already done is a legacy. You already lived things in the past you passed thru. And for me I think this is what moves me, still. To be able to inspire people, children, whatever. This is what takes you going on, going on.
And Monica truly is an inspiring person. Thank you so much Monica, I can’t wait to see you next time; whenever the universe wants us to meet again!
It’s time to think about YogAct’s theory of change.
Sharing an ethical, spiritual, humanist and ecologist vision of social change, YogAct aims to move towards a society in that sustainability is the common cause of humanity. A society in which people are serving for the community, its people and the environment. As YogAct says: There’s no more time to talk about it. It’s time to act on it!
And they are right! Our current way of living is not the most sustainable. Today’s society is driven a lot by individualism and focuses on personal benefits rather than serving society or nature. But after all, conscious or not, people do care. And they want to help. We just need the tools!
To achieve social change, YogAct’s approach is based on the values of yoga- and focusses on two things: the direct contact with children as they are the future AND on creating a network that both links people with common ideas and projects and provides everything needed to get started. But it’s not just the direct work with the kids. YogAct provides the tools to empower teachers and parents. In doing so, YogAct brings the values of yoga and the power of community into the educational system and forms the foundation for the future society.
We are sure that together with the network that links motivation, agents of change and the open source of incubator projects, YogAct can move a lot!!!
You can find all links in the show notes below and on our website www.flowful.org.
The wonderful music you hear is by Andrew Healy.
Thanks for listening! Be flowful!