Beyond Asana Brings Yoga, Service Together to Build a School in Nepal

Maura Manzo and Brittany Policastro are co-founders of the Beyond Asana Yoga Teacher Training. This blog is about their amazing experience, raising money to build a school in Nepal with Policastro and 15 of their yoga students. Next week we’ll be profiling Katy Leshko, one of the students going to Nepal; and sharing her experience over the next few months as she prepares for the journey.

The “what next” was looming over my head. I had just finished a year-long $20,000 fundraising project with Off the Mat, Into the World ® (OTM) that concluded with a two-week humanitarian trip focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention in Cape Town, South Africa. I was inspired by the work the yoga and service organization was doing across the world, but I was also exhausted from how (unexpectedly) difficult it had been to raise the money. Service-work had become a big part of my everyday dialogue, yet I was surprised when buildOn’s Chad Zibelman (who was engaged to one on my co-workers) congratulated me on the success of my project. He casually added, as he and his fiancé were strolling out the door, “Next time, why don’t you raise $30,000 and raise it for buildOn.” I couldn’t tell if it was a suggestion or a challenge. Needless to say, it was the last thing I wanted to think about.

Two months later, in the spring of 2011, I had a meeting with Brittany Policastro. In March 2009, I had listened to her recap her service trip to Cambodia. She had also raised $20,000 with OTM. Little did I know then that we would one day be collaborating on a groundbreaking project of our own. We met to discuss how we could collaborate. Specifically, we wanted to see how we could combine the transformative work we had done in the yoga world with the life-changing service projects we had both had worked on. I wanted to connect my students to projects and trips around the world. At that time, Brittany was working on a new concept for a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). This concept incorporated all the traditional aspects of a YTT program, but added a service component that could connect our community to communities around the world. We decided to join forces to create a teacher training unlike any Philadelphia training or, quite frankly, any training we had seen before. Together, we would take all we had learned about yoga and healing, add that to the invaluable aspects of community service and combine it all to develop conscious teachers and leaders who could improve the quality of their life – with their families, in their relationships, in their jobs, and fostering growth and change on a local and global scale. And so, the Beyond Asana 200-Hr Teacher Training was born. (Asana is the Sanskrit word for yoga pose)

However, we still needed to find a partner organization. We were looking for one that was sustainable and transparent in their efforts, offered the opportunity to connect with children, provided a fundraising platform for our students, and worked on both local and global projects. Finally, the organization had to be able to provide us support tools and be interested in cultivating a strong, growing relationship to foster future collaborations.

Three months after Chad first planted the seed, Brittany and I met with him at our local Whole Foods to learn more about buildOn. He educated us about the nonprofit and its mission, and brought us pictures and countless stories from his recent trek to Nepal. The logistics matched up and the stories hooked us. Within days, our partnership with buildOn began.

At Beyond Asana, we believe that the experience of engaging in a service project can be life changing. Both Brittany and I have extensive experience in fundraising and humanitarian travel. These experiences have transformed our lives and offered us insight about our purpose on this planet. It’s our hope to extend these opportunities to others around us, while empowering them to use the tools of a yoga practice to release any feelings of separation. in order to connect to communities around the world, both small and large. Through this, we believe we can each align our core values and beliefs with the actions we take in our everyday lives.

Today our YTT program is in full effect and we currently have 15 students raising money for our campaign. In addition to their tuition, each student is asked to raise $5,000 for buildOn. This money will go to build the school and cover all the expenses for our group to take a 10-day trek together in February, where we’ll work with the community to break ground on the school. Our goal is to raise $75,000. As of today, we are just over our halfway mark, having raised approximately $34,000! Brittany and I are inspired and impressed with each of our students’ efforts. However, the clock is ticking. Our students have until 11:59 pm, October 20 to raise the funds. Can you help?

We hope you will check out each individual’s web page, read their inspiring stories, and help support them to reach their goal. Be part of the movement; OUR movement. Make it yours. And remember the famous line from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Maura Manzo
Co-Founder, Beyond Asana Yoga Teacher Training
Beyond Asana Service Project