Thank you!

I am so grateful for the ways in which the yoga community is waking up and stepping in. I am grateful for how we are finding our voice and engaging in a way that is conscious and compassionate. I am grateful for our courageous leaders who are willing to confront uncomfortable situations and difficult conversations. I am grateful for our commitment to being at our edge and breathing through the challenging moments. I am grateful for the way we came together in community and collaboration to amplify our impact.

And most of all…I am grateful for all of YOU. They say this campaign was won on the ground. For all of you who contributed to the conversation, stepped into leadership in your communities, supported your peers in making conscious decisions, navigated difficult conversations and stayed grounded and compassionate through it all, thank you. YOU made a difference by standing for what you believe in and inspiring others to do the same.

Thank you for believing in what is possible when we take our yoga off the mat.

Kerri Kelly,
Executive Director, YogaVotes

About the Author

Kerri was drawn to yoga in the late 90s after a series of running and sports-related injuries, Kerri quickly discovered the power of yoga, not only as a way to heal her body, but as a spiritual tool to change her life. Inspired by this, she left a successful career in marketing to dedicate herself to empowering others through yoga. Kerri has been teaching yoga for seven years and continues to explore many styles of yoga to ensure creativity and balance in her classes. She has been greatly influenced and inspired She is the Director of Possibility for non-profit, Off the Mat, Into the World and is committed to mobilizing the yoga community around purpose and positive social change.

Today is the day we act.


Over the last five years at Off the Mat, Into the World, I have witnessed what is possible when we take our yoga practice into our lives. It is informing the ways that we spend our money. It shows up in our choices about what we eat. Around the world, yogis are finding their voice and stepping into leadership in their communities. Yoga is influencing the way that we relate to one another and raise our children. Yoga is everywhere, and politics is no exception.

Today is the day we take action. In this election, EVERY vote counts. Whether you are in a swing state, or a red state, or a blue state – we are all in this as a collective nation and our voice will speak volumes about what we stand for. But more than that, voting is a way of claiming your place in society. It fiercely states “I deserve to be heard and will stand up for what i believe in”. It reflects your commitment to being a part of something bigger than yourself. That is yoga.

Take a moment today to consider who you are and what’s at stake for you in this election. These are critical times that call us up so that we can participate in the most clear, conscious and compassionate way. Contemplate your choices carefully and remember that your contribution impacts others.

Many have fought and died for the right to vote. How will you use this very important action to serve the greater good and make the world a better place?

About the Author

Kerri was drawn to yoga in the late 90s after a series of running and sports-related injuries, Kerri quickly discovered the power of yoga, not only as a way to heal her body, but as a spiritual tool to change her life. Inspired by this, she left a successful career in marketing to dedicate herself to empowering others through yoga. Kerri has been teaching yoga for seven years and continues to explore many styles of yoga to ensure creativity and balance in her classes. She has been greatly influenced and inspired She is the Director of Possibility for non-profit, Off the Mat, Into the World and is committed to mobilizing the yoga community around purpose and positive social change.

Election Day Mantra: Do yoga + vote

Election Day Yoga

Photo credit: Christopher Gindlesperger

what is election day yoga?
On Nov. 6, yoga studios across the country will be offering complimentary yoga classes all day. Unite with your community and join us at any of the participating studios below.

are you a studio interested in offering free yoga on election day?
Email us at studios@yogavotes.org with your studio name, city, state and any additional information that is important.

Flow Yoga DC and Lululemon
All classes on Nov.6 are free
Washington, DC
For additional DC participating studios, visit Lululemon’s Election Day Yoga list.

Invoke Studio
Indianapolis, IN
Class time: 4:30 p.m.

Willow Glen Yoga
San Jose, CA
All classes on Nov.6 are free

The Studio DC Yoga Center
Washington, D.C.
All classes on Nov.6 are free

532Yoga
Alexandria, VA
All classes on Nov.6 are free

extendYoga
Rockville, MD
All classes on Nov.6 are free

Circle Yoga
Washington, D.C.
All classes on Nov.6 are free

Perennial Yoga and Meditation
Fitchburg, WI
9:00am Peaceful Flow
12:00pm Vinyasa Flow
6:00pm Power Flow

Ahimsa Yoga Studio
Oak Park, IL
6:00-7:15pm taught by Kelly Merydith

Union Yoga
San Francisco, CA
All classes on Nov.6 are free

Simon Says Yoga
Bethesda, MD
All classes on Nov.6 are free

Embrace
Washington, DC
All classes on Nov.6 are free

Quiet Mind Yoga
Washington, DC
All classes on Nov.6 are free

Little River Yoga
Arlington/Alexandria, Virginia
All classes on Nov.6 are free

Yoga District
Washington, DC
All classes on Nov.6 are free

Why local offices matter

I work in politics, but in the hours after Sandy struck New York, the only elected officials on my mind were those in my neighborhood.

I admit it. There are times I don’t think much about my local elected officials. Until disaster strikes. I’ve been moved by the response of our Mayor, Governor, and President, but it was my local elected officials that made sure fire hydrants were opened on streets without tap water, that churches and volunteer organizations were knocking on doors to see who needed help, and tracking downed trees, transformer explosions, and flooding, and sharing all that information with the utilities companies, agencies, and other elected officials who could make a difference.

In the world of politics, these are the first responders.

A few of the issues that get decided by the municipality and the state:
Environmental regulations:

  • Fracking
  • Coal standards
  • Investment in solar or wind energy
  • Investments in highways and/or public transportation

Women’s health:

  • Access to contraception
  • Restrictions on abortion
  • Insurance coverage for low-income children
  • Hospital closures, OB/GYN care in hospitals

Education:

  • Class size
  • School Budget
  • Charter School Rules

The race between presidential candidates will be close this year. Really close. But that isn’t the only reason it is imperative that we all get out to vote tomorrow. There are important choices on your ballot that affect your neighborhood, your children’s schools, and your community spaces. Your city and state elections can influence national clean energy and women’s health policy. So get informed, and call your neighbors, and vote down the ticket this election.

About the Author

Jessica’s expertise is in expanding the electorate to include youth, union members, people of color, and low income voters. Jessica directed New York State’s largest legislative advocacy organization, the SEIU-backed Healthcare Education Project (HEP), and managed the nine top priority states for the historic election of Barack Obama.

Flip Your Pic!

Let everyone know that your voice will be heard on November 6th (or before) by changing your profile picture on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and anywhere else that you connect with people! Choose your pic below.

Research shows that social media is a major influence on voter turnout.
A new study by researchers at UCSD offers detailed evidence that a non-partisan get-out-the-vote reminder on Facebook can also increase voter turnout– “about 340,000 more people turned out to the polls two years ago because of a single Facebook message posted” on Election Day.

Not only were Facebook users influenced by the get-out-the-vote message, the study argues that their friends, and the friends of their friends, were also influenced to vote.

A nudge online can cause a statistically significant number of people to be more likely to vote.

I Pledged to Vote!

Haven’t pledged yet?
Not to worry, it’s not too late!
Pledge here.

I Voted Early!

Did you vote early?
Then this is the badge for you.

I Voted!

For all of you Election Day voters:
This is your pic for Nov 6.

Democracy is a demanding form of government

This is a transcript of Max Strom’s speech during the Vote Your Heart DC event on October 21,2012

Each and every time you watch the news you can always find many reasons to become angry. From basic lack of kindness, to fanaticism, to complete brutality, the news can break a person’s heart. Additionally, when we see our government barely functioning at all, when what we truly need is emergency level action, it is difficult not to react with great negativity.

It could be argued that we are demonstrating to the world the failure of Democracy, whereas we used to be the beacon on the hill. Because of this we could potentially, with justifiable reasons, be perpetually enraged, every day, every hour, every minute.

In response to our own anger, many people completely and utterly lose hope in our leaders to solve any of our problems, and even make the soul-killing choice to numb themselves to what is going on in the world, and choose, understandably, not to vote.

Others use their rage to propel themselves into activism. But it is an anger-driven activism. History teaches us that angry activism is only one step away from violent activism, and violent activism usually replicates the original problem such as the sad phenomena of peace demonstrations that erupt into war-like riots. Violence is not our way to peace, justice, and wisdom.

So what can a kind and thinking person do? Rage in the streets? Or hide our head in the sand?Democracy is a demanding form of government. It doesn’t just ask us to vote, it demands much more than that from us. Voting is only the beginning. Looking back at history, it is naive of us to expect that we only need elect seemingly good men and women of honor and wisdom, and then go about our business and leave them to fix things. That is what many in power expect from us. In fact, they are counting on it. They don’t want us to pay attention.

We must shake ourselves awake and remember in this presidential election that we are not electing a king.

Over the past six years, I have traveled a great deal as a teacher and speaker. I have visited countries that are ruled by Kings, where no one votes. I have visited countries that are ruled by totalitarian regimes, where if I made a speech like this one, tomorrow a car would show up at my door and I would never be seen again. Here it is different. We have some rights, but democracy is ever-demanding, it demands that we elect our representatives, and then it demands that we supervise them and ensure that they perform their duties with integrity, for the greater good, and with future generations in their sights.

An example of this is the Great Law of the Iroquois Nation, who required that their leaders make decisions looking seven generations ahead (a couple hundred years into the future) and then decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit the future generations. This worked very well for them as they ultimately achieved 500 years of peace, a peace that ended only by foreign invaders with superior war technology.

The grand scale of our current problems demands that we not wait for our leaders to solve them on their own, but that we constantly communicate to them what must be done. Voting is only the beginning. The term “democracy” derives from the Greek “demokratia”, meaning “the will of the people.” We shall use our will to guide our leaders to right action – to realign a misaligned nation from the grass roots up.

The civil rights victory in the 60’s happened because the American people insisted on it. The Vietnam War ended because the American people insisted that it end. Women’s Rights came about because we the people pressed our government to manifest justice. Now, in our time, we must vote and then get to work to make certain that our elected leaders take action for the short term, medium term and long term for our nation and the planet.

But the way we influence must be with the same integrity that we demand of our leaders. Our wisdom does not guide us to become angry and sarcastic, but rather activists worthy of listening to. To influence in a peaceful, yet courageous way, with integrity. We need only to look back to past leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King as examples. When the world witnessed these movements, they couldn’t help but be impressed with the discipline and peacefulness of the demonstrators. People coming together with common cause have great power.

Today, the Tea Party is an example of a new party without actual candidates that has influenced the government. Agree or not with their platform, they have influenced this government.

The Occupy movement has been less effective. Agree or not with their essential messages, I believe there are two essential flaws in this movement:

One, the camping out of the demonstrators has created unintended negative consequences and attracted some people whose unsavory actions are not above criticism. Camping out is not the ideal method for true impact as it brings into question the true intention of the campers. There is a better tactic that we can study if at some point in the future we come to need to make quick and massive change peacefully. Take, for example, the recent Orange Revolution that took place in the Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005. In short, the presidential election was compromised by corruption and electoral fraud. Protesters dressed in orange (their national color), surrounded Kiev (the nation’s capital), and demonstrated nonstop for nearly eight weeks. Hundreds of thousands of people. 24 hours a day. They did not camp out, instead they took shifts replacing each other with friends via text messages. Eventually the sitting president was removed from power and the rightfully elected president took his place. In my opinion, this was one of the most important democratic events in world history, and especially in the last fifty years. This is a real-life example of a peaceful revolution that succeeded. It is a model of what can be done on a large scale if driven by ethical principles and behavior.

The second essential flaw in the occupy movement: If you look at photos of Martin Luther King’s march on Washington, you will not see drum circles, or face paint, or zombie costumes. You will see images of impassioned, yet disciplined citizens wearing their Sunday best. This made a distinct impression that clearly communicated we are citizens for justice and equal rights. We are not a mob. We are not the fringe. We are the American people.

Our path is not activism motivated by rage, but by wisdom, inclusion, and even love. Any change we desire in the world must be taught by example first, and by words second. Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King have all shown us how to take action from outside the system and in a noble and peaceful manner. The method has been laid out well.

I recommend that we vote as a matter of course. Millions of good people died for that right. Of course we will vote. And then our real work begins. Democracy is inconvenient and demanding. Our President, whoever he may be, and our Congressional representatives will be hearing from us. Next year they may even witness the birth of a third party. One that believes in facts, in math, that listens to the warnings of scientists. And most of all one who listens to those that have come before us such as Martin Luther King who reminded us to love our enemies, and to John F. Kennedy, who called on us to ask ourselves, what we can do for our country.

I will conclude with this quote by President Theodor Roosevelt, from 1910:

“The history of America is now the central feature of the history of the world; for the world has set its face hopefully toward our democracy; and, my fellow citizens, each one of you carries on your shoulders not only the burden of doing well for the sake of your own country, but the burden of doing well and of seeing that this nation does well for the sake of mankind.”

About the Author

Teacher, speaker, and author Max Strom is known for inspiring and impacting the lives of his students and readers and has become a new voice of personal transformation worldwide. Due to an ever-increasing demand for his teachings, Max travels extensively teaching and lecturing on personal transformation, spirituality, and yoga. His system guides us to live the daily experience of a meaningful life and includes a philosophy for living, self-enquiry, breath-work, yoga postures, and meditation. His teachings are a culmination of his life experience and decades of study and application. He has taught tens of thousands of students and trained several hundred teachers across the globe. Max's book, A Life Worth Breathing, (Skyhorse Publishing 2010), is now available in four languages. You can also experience his work with his home practice DVDs. Max Strom has been the keynote speaker at numerous conferences and forums. Among his 2011 and 2012 speaking appearances were two TEDx events, and a keynote speech on ethics in business at the Lululemon management conference.

Vote in the 2012 Presidential Elections. It is your dharma.

The yoga community in America has historically looked towards India and learnt from the teachers and wisdom traditions that originated there. It can draw some wisdom for the upcoming Presidential elections from the same source.

India is the world’s largest democracy. It has a population of 1.1 billion people and a voting age population of 738 million, according to the Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance. India is a young democracy that became independent from British rule in 1947 and a full-fledged republic with its own constitution in 1950. I was born and raised in India and was lucky to have been exposed to its democratic institutions and electoral processes from an early age. One of the facts I am very proud of is that every few years the whole country has gone to the polls and power has transferred to a different group of leaders elected by the people in a peaceful process.

A voter holds a crying baby as she stands in a queue to cast her ballot outside a polling booth at Lalgarh village Photo: REUTERS

India with its huge and diverse electoral population and multi-party democracy presents a challenge of biblical proportions to conducting free and fair elections. It is the largest exercise in democratic franchise in the world, with more than 738 million people being given an equal opportunity to participate in the elections. Many of them are illiterate and have to be trained to vote for a symbol they can visually recognize (like a bicycle, an open palm or a lotus) rather than read the candidate’s name on the ballot. Electoral officers have to sometimes carry ballot boxes on horseback and by camel, crossing rivers on foot and trekking up mountain paths to make sure that even citizens living in remote areas have a chance to vote.

Indian ballot

Indians take their voting rights seriously. In the 2004 elections, 60% of the voting age population participated and in 2009, 56% used their vote. This is in contrast to the US, where 57% participated in 2008 and only 38% in 2010, according to the Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance. One of my vivid memories as a child is my great-grandmother Vattompadath Kalyani Kutty Amma participating in the elections. She was 92 at that time and had rarely traveled outside the the small rice farming hamlet called Chittilencheri in Kerala, Southern India, where our family is from. In my living memory she had never left the village or even gone more than two miles from our family home. And yet for the general elections that year, poll workers came and took her to the neighboring village school where she cast her vote. Every vote matters. She knew exactly whom she voted for by choosing the symbol of the candidate as she could not read and write – and she could tell me why she made that choice.

Drawing from that electoral and democratic wisdom coming out of India, it is important that the yoga community in America actively participate in the upcoming elections. Why do I say this?

It is your dharma. If you live in a democracy, voting is a right, a privilege and a duty. It is our dharma to participate in the democratic process and cast our votes.  As a yoga practitioner you must do your dharma. It is very similar to how Krishna tells Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita that it is the duty of a Kshtatriya, or a warrior, to go to battle and how everyone must do their duty.

Personal Power from exercising your choice. You have a choice, so exercise it.  Yogis live from a place of personal power. Personal power comes from knowing your values, showing integrity towards it, setting an intention, making a choice and exercising it.

Speak your truth.  The Yoga community has reached a tipping point with an estimated 20 million practitioners who spend an estimated $27 billion on yoga products. Plus an even larger amount of buying power across all the other products and services we consume. We make choices in conscious living. We choose consciously what we eat, how we take care of our environment, what we drive, what we consume, how we use energy, what resources we consume, and how we take care of our personal health. We need to speak our truth about these choices and how we respect other people’s choices. When we participate in the democratic process, in the political debate and make our electoral choices, we will be speaking our collective truth.

So on Tuesday November 6, wake up early, and roll out your yoga mat or meditation cushion. Do your yoga or meditation practice. Get centered in your being. Feel a sense of gratitude that you have the gift of voting rights that someone else fought hard for. Go to the polling booth tall, erect and poised in your yogic energy. Exercise your personal power. Speak your truth. And receive the electoral results with a sense of grace, ease, calm, equanimity and peace. Just as yogis have always done in India.

About the Author

Gopi Kallayil is the Chief Evangelist of Google Social. Earlier he worked on marketing the Company's flagship advertising product, AdWords, in the Americas and Asia Pacific. Gopi also led the marketing team for AdSense, Google's publisher-facing product. Before joining Google, Gopi was on the management teams of two Silicon Valley venture funded startups and a consultant with McKinsey & Co. He has also led large Information Technology projects for global corporations in India, China, and the US. Gopi earned his Bachelors degree in electronics engineering from the National Institute of Technology in India. He received his Masters in Business Administration degrees from the Indian Institute of Management and The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an avid yoga practitioner, triathlete, public speaker, global traveler and Burning Man devotee. He hosts a TV channel on cable and YouTube called Change Makers. He founded and still leads a weekly yoga practice for Googlers called Yoglers. He has spoken many times at TEDx, Wanderlust, Wisdom 2.0, Yoga Journal conference and Burning Man on how to live a life centered on yoga and wisdom traditions in the midst of a fast paced career in hi-tech.

Mindful on the Mat & at the Polls

As a yogi and advocate of community outreach I have always been inspired by fellow yogis joining movements to improve their community, and strengthen the ties that bind us together as a tribe.

When I first heard about YogaVotes, the qualities of activism etched in my mind from hours of nonprofit public health canvassing came rushing back. It was when I was most directly involved in lobbying some two years ago that I was beginning my journey into the yoga world. So, it only makes sense now that I have grown in my practice; that I have re-entered into the world of advocacy rooted as a yogi.

I truly believe that we can take all of the qualities that we harness each day through yoga and use them to make a impact with our elected officials by taking action. We are engaged members of the yoga community simply because we practice and care for one another. It isn’t so different from reaching out to a legislator, some of whom live right down the street from us, and all of which put their pants on one leg at a time. It’s our responsibility as their yogi constituents to let those that represent the voice of the people, understand what that voice really stands for. United we can make a world of difference.

As yogis it is in our nature to be mindful on the mat, and at the Polls! There are so many ways to get involved with YogaVotes. As a nonpartisan forum for yogis to connect, engage, and advocate for change; the universe is the limit! To start the easiest thing to do is simply declare that you are going to vote this year by signing the YogaVotes Pledge. If you are an advocate looking for more, there are many ways to extend your energy as a studio partner and as a leader in the community: Get Involved any way you can

Election Day is November 6th Yogis! Don’t forget to register under your current address, join the YogaVotes campaign, and make the movement move!!

Sondra Bloxam is the founder of YogaGrow, Outreach Director for Yogi Roots, Ambassador for the Yoga Health Foundation, and Leader for OTM's YogaVotes in Portland. Sondra is strengthening the yoga community in the Northwest by connecting yogis with local festivals, conferences, and events to grow their practice through YogaGrow. Learn more at: http://yogagrow.wordpress.com/

Announcing: YogaVotes Telesummit weekly call series

Join Tal Rachleff and incredible yogis from around the US for the FREE weekly YogaVotes Telesummit. During these calls we will bring together powerful voices from around the yoga community and engage in a dialogue that drives this incredible community forward in it’s understanding of the intersection between yoga and voting.

Calls are each Monday from 10/8 until 11/5 from 11am to 12pm PST.

REGISTER HERE

10/8: YogaVotes Telesummit Official Kick-Off!
Seane Corn, Founder, Off the Mat, Into the World
Angel Kyodo Williams, MindfulVOTES Director
Kerri Kelly, YogaVotes Director10/15: ABC’s of Voting from the Experts
Donnie Fowler, Presidential Campaign Strategist

10/22: Yoga + Voting
Waylon Lewis, Elephant Journal

10/29 The Impact of Conscious Decision Making
Rod Stryker

11/5 Yoga the Vote!
Kerri Kelly and special guests!