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Becoming an Agent of Change: Off the Mat, Into the World

My name is Rachel and I am a yoga junkie.

I’ve been practicing yoga for several years, but it wasn’t until now, after I completed the Off the Mat Into the World (OTM) conscious activism intensive, that I feel I’ve become a yogi.

I find peace when I practice. Whether it’s a good day or bad, I can now see how yoga has become a manifestation of my everyday thoughts. Yoga has become a vehicle for me to express the intangibles running through my body.

Over the years, I’ve absorbed lessons from my beloved teachers Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee. Two years ago, I completed their 300-hour teacher training and after this intensive, I have learned the true meaning of the word union. My yoga practice has been taken to a new height and reached a new depth with a focus on purpose.

My connection with myself is stronger than ever, and this has shown me that the teacher truly lives within.

OTM was founded by Seane CornSuzanne Sterling and Hala Khouri and is run by their amazing executive director, Kerri Kelly. This phenomenal organization educates yoga practitioners and guides them as they go out into the world to become leaders in the various causes they and OTM supports.

The ladies of OTM helped us through intense yogic understanding and practice at this workshop. Whether it’s asana practice, meditation, finding your voice, releasing your dance moves or breaking down your personal issues into their unique meanings on how to benefit the world, OTM is equipped and ready to guide you on your journey.

Seane’s guidance in spiritual wisdom—connecting the mind and body with deep explanation—taught me how and why my body finds certain yoga poses with ease and others require a bit of struggle. She brought clarity to the chakra system, which simply fascinates me by how it reacts to my past and present being.

Suzanne bestowed grace and groove upon the room, digging into our souls and giving us the tools to express ourselves through music. She released my inner voice!

And Hala was simply brilliant. A somatic psychotherapist turned yoga teacher, she held court in the scientific and philosophical education of why our mind, body and spirit work the way they do.

Kerri rounded out the week with simple lessons of bringing purpose to fruition through personal experiences, collaborations, sustainability and action.

These words barely scratch the surface of my profound respect for these women and what they’ve created. They have a rock solid structure of engaging people to make a difference, and I admire their detailed process and natural know-how for empowering people and changing lives.

Like most people, I had a challenging childhood. But after programs like the Hoffman Process and OTM, I have channeled my energy into helping others. This would have been an impossible feat had I not educated myself with the proper tools to understand this thing called “life.”

I was never taught to express myself as a child; I was told my thoughts were not worthy. Whew, how that has changed! I have learned I need to get physical in order to release the blocks that hold me back from living out loud.

Yoga does that for me. My relationships with others—personally and professionally—will now benefit from this newfound grounding and authenticity. The wisdom and delivery of yoga teachers has shifted me, mind, body and spirit.

Being the extremely loyal being that I am, I must also pay homage to Donna Karan and my years as the director of program development at her incredible Urban Zen Foundation. It was my launch pad into the yoga world and philanthropy. My turning point was when I was fortunate to have produced Sri Pattabhi Jois’ NYC memorial after he passed away. 500 people gathered at one of the most beautiful events I’ve produced in my life.

That, and witnessing Rodney and Colleen’s Urban Zen Integrative Therapist (UZIT) program take off, has been a game-changer for me. UZITs are trained in yoga, reiki, aromatherapy, nutrition and contemplative care. Once certified, they bring their skills to patients in hospitals. It is a life-altering program that I know makes people feel better.

All of these teachers are spiritual leaders to me as they help my soul evolve. I feel so fortunate to be riding this wave of enlightenment for my own personal reasons, which in the end, combined with my professional mission, will help the world be a better place.

OTM’s initiatives are far-reaching yet focused. Even better, they are in line with those I’ve created for my production, marketing and management company, Agent of Change. My goal has always been to help the world through the projects I fulfill, and OTM is doing the same right alongside me. I look forward to working with them for many years to come. Their endeavors include:

>> Yoga in Action is OTM’s grassroots movement that brings the Off the Mat experience to your local area. These seven-week groups are an opportunity to build community around yoga and service, develop relationships with other yogis and activists in your area and collaborate on creating real change.

>> Each year, OTM sponsors an international service project called the Global Seva Challenge. The Seva Challenge is a transformational journey that builds community, provokes awareness and action around global issues and raises significant funds to support communities in crisis. Since 2007, the Seva Challenge has raised over two million dollars for projects in Cambodia, Uganda, South Africa and Haiti. In 2012, the Seva Challenge will be focused on the issue of sex trafficking in India and worldwide.

>> OTM offers a commitment to serving children through the Empowered Youth Initiative. They believe that if we can facilitate the empowerment of youth, we can make an exponential impact on social justice and environmental issues. Our young people are our future leaders and are therefore one of the best places to invest our time and resources.

>> YogaVotes is where yoga meets political action. It is a chance for yogis to take what they practice on the mat—awareness, compassion and sustainability—to the polls. Imagine 20 million—and growing—voters voting from their hearts, with their voices and connected to their bodies. It’s a powerful force for change. Yoga Votes is a nonpartisan campaign to engage the yoga community in the 2012 election and beyond. It is an opportunity for the yoga community to become a constituency of conscious voters, a block of voters engaging in the political process in a new way and asking to be heard. By sheer number, we can have an impact as millions of yogis show up to vote using the values and principles of yoga. We have a chance to create real change in the political process simply by taking part in it.

>> The Engage Springboard is a program for emerging projects to generate, activate and accelerate high impact social change. It is a year‐long training series will support top leaders who are poised to take their emerging social change initiatives to the next level. Facilitated by experts in social innovation, training modules will build leadership capacity, program sustainability and community impact.

**Thanks to our friends over at elephantjournal.com where this article originally appeared.

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About

A veteran within her field, Rachel P. Goldstein has twenty years of experience in the non-profit, film, music, political, and wellness industries. A connection to event production and passion for social progress led Rachel to found the multi-faceted firm Agent of Change. With an emphasis on cause-related events and projects, Rachel fuses her creative senses with the client's concrete goals. It is this professional and personal malleability that has fostered boundary-less opportunities for Rachel and her diverse network. A native New Yorker with the sensibility to match, her inherent talents strengthen the tie between professional achievement and social consciousness. Rachel's creative reach has led her to represent labels such as Interscope Geffen A+M and produce concerts and events for musical heavyweights such as The Roots, Mary J. Blige, Dave Matthews Band, Eminem, The Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, and Moby. Prior to founding her company Rachel served as Director of Program Development with Donna Karan's Urban Zen Foundation and produced film and television pieces alongside Academy Award winners Barbara Kopple, Alex Gibney, and Emmy Award winner Marc Levin.

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