“Off The Mat Into The World”~”Why stretch when you can reach?”

“Off The Mat Into The World” is a grassroots non-profit organization, part of The Engage Network that was started in 2007 by Seane Corn. Seane Corn, Suzanne Sterling and Hala Khouri, among nine others, and many others are this organization. It is an organization that stands and strives for Leadership, Empowerment, Community, Activism, and Sustainability; getting yogis out into the community and building leaders. It is about using what we learn in our yoga practice and inspiring others to live with conscious, sustainable passion.

Yoga means union, to yoke body, mind and Spirit and OTM helps us to take what we learn on the mat-love, compassion, unity and bring it into the world. Yoga is not only about the physical practice but it is about taking what comes up for us in our practice and sharing that with everyone. It is about being empowered to make a difference, however big or small. Yoga is a spiritual practice and it cultivates love, passion and purpose in our hearts and in everyone that we come in contact with.

OTM is a beautiful community that brings like minded people together to facilitate change in the world through many different programs and paths. The first program or path that they help you develop is through Leadership Trainings. I was given the honor of being a part of this Intensive Leadership Training at Omega Institute in July and it was the most life transforming week of my life. These trainings help us explore our deep, raw feelings and emotions through communicating and using our voice as a tool to be empowered. Through our daily workshops we learned many great leadership skills and how to use those skills to bring about action in the most sustainable way. Within the Training component of OTM, there is a program called Yoga In Action. What Yoga In Action is really, is experiencing “Off The Mat Into the World” in your own community through gathering your friends in your neighborhood, studio etc and building your community around yoga and develop service skills and relationships with other yogis in your area to develop a seven week curriculum that will focus on creating change in your area through sustainability. It is about making that connection, that change in the least “polluting” way.

OTM also works at building community. Community is what OTM strongly stands for. It is about building yogis to be empowered activists in their towns and in the world. The people we associate with, who we open up to, who we connect with and who we cross paths with can truly change our lives and make a difference. It is ordinary people like myself and anyone we come in contact with that can make a difference. It is about sharing what we build and pour onto our mats that will open up our hearts to receive.

OTM also stands for action. It is about creating leaders in the most empowering, sustainable way. Within action, one of OTM’s many other programs is the Global Seva Challenge. Seva in yogic terms means “selfless service”.What the Global Seva Challenge is, is a service project that focuses on a particular developing country. Through fundraising and events, participants like myself raise money to help bring the country of focus back to a sustainable state of well being and if we raise $20,000 we get to travel with my dear friend Seane to the developing country through Bare Witness, and see firsthand where our money is going directly, building schools, an Eco birthing center, a bakery, among many other useful, sustainable facilities. Even if you do not get to the goal, no matter how much you raise your money will be put to good use. They have been doing the Seva Challenge for four years now, starting with Cambodia, going to Uganda, South Africa and this year it is Haiti. When you sign up for this Challenge and commit yourself you get to see which organizations that we will be working with and where the focus will be. You also have access to the Seva Resources Page which is a page for participants of the Challenge to find information about the country of focus, you get an Event Planning Toolkit where in it you will find different fundraising ideas to help you get to the goal without any pressure, you will find posts by recent Global Seva Challenge individuals and leaders. It is a great tool to go back to throughout the year. Because it is a Challenge to raise the money, when you sign up you are given a mentor that helps you every step of the way. Your mentor answers any and every question that may come up for you on this journey. Heather Snyder, a regional leader in OTM is my dear friend and mentor for the 2011 Haiti Challenge and I could not have imagined my journey without Heather’s guidance and support. Every month, twice a month we have conference calls led by Suzanne Sterling, a musician and my dear friend, who is one of the amazing women of OTM. Suzanne talks to us about the challenges that may come up, and trust me they come up and she gives us tools and resources that will help us along. She will answer any and every question that we may have so as to understand this journey. It is a beautiful support system!

Within the action component of OTM, there is another beautiful program called the Empowered Youth Intuitive, run by my dear friend and Somatic Counselor, Hala Khouri. What the Empowered Youth Intuitive is, is working with youth that are in urban and suburban areas that are at-risk, with drugs, violence, gangs, juvenile hall, or are victims of violent behavior. These youth are more likely to suffer from depression, low self esteem, and have mental delays. The Empowered Youth Intuitive takes in and focuses in on the whole situation of who, what, where, when, and why. It is about taking the person as they come without attachment or judgment and making them feel important, worthy and empowered.

Also, again within the action of OTM, there is yet another program called Yoga Votes. Yoga Votes is about getting our voice heard and getting our point across in the most humane, sustainable way, all in the name of change. As beautifully stated on the OTM website, “Voting IS Yoga-it is speaking your truth and putting it into practice” (http://offthematintotheworld.org). “Off The Mat Into The World” is a beautiful organization that I am so happy to be a part of. I just love what the organization stands for and it has truly opened up my heart and has given me the self confidence that I have been looking for. Yoga has taught me that everything that we need is already inside of us. I have always known that I wanted to do some humanitarian work and volunteer, but I didn’t know how and OTM has given me that and so much more! I thank Seane, Suzanne, and Hala and everyone at OTM for helping me grow, transform, and change! I LOVE being a part of OTM!!!