Students practice yoga to raise money for sex trafficking victims

A group of charitable Yogis greeted the Saturday sun as it climbed up the eastern side of the Walter Pyramid – they saluted it 108 times.

The LBC Yoga Mala took place on Saturday and lasted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Yoga instructors, activists and enthusiasts were gathered at the base of the Pyramid to help raise money and awareness for grassroots organizations in India that aim to educate and provide support for victims of sex trafficking.

“It’s estimated that 3 to 6 million children at any given time fall victim to sex trafficking,” Kerrie Kauer, an assistant professor of the kinesiology department and organizer of the event, said. “The average age of these victims is 12 to 15 years old.”

Kauer said that she has been practicing yoga for five years and chose to participate in the Global Seva Challenge, a program under the non-profit organization Off the Mat, Into the World. The Global Seva Challenge, which means “selfless service” in Sanskrit, contributes to a different cause every year. Kauer, who has worked with gender oppression and women’s rights issues, said she feels partial to this year’s cause.

Participants paid or raised $108 to participate. The number 108 is an auspicious number that is sacred in Buddhist tradition, and used for meditation and prayer, Kauer said.

Kristin Coleman, a Cal State Long Beach alumnus, had no trouble coming up with the funds to participate. She raised the money in two days by promoting the cause to family and friends and via social media.

Many of the participants were already regular practitioners of Yoga, some of which were Cal State Long Beach alumni and students.

Heat radiated over the Yogis in the Yoga Mala as they inhaled and exhaled in unison, flowing through poses and surrendering to the power of yoga by opening their hands and hearts to the sun.

“Quadrupeds are so fortunate because their hearts are so close to the earth,” yoga instructor Stephanie Sweet said as the participants rested in their downward dog pose.

Each of the yoga instructors took turns teaching while others perused, straightening and massaging the backs of the Yogis.

“Don’t think, just feel,” Scott Winslow, one of the instructors, from the top of the steps, said.

Winslow led the yogis through their final nine salutations, as all their breath and motion turned to a single life-force. At the end, a silence swept over the group as they stood rooted to the earth in Tadasana, or mountain pose.

“When you come to your mat, you are clearing the Karma for the seven generations before you and the seven generations ahead of you,” Sati Ah, another instructor, said.

Booths for other charity organizations and volunteer opportunities stood around the yoga grounds, as well as vendors of art and baked goods. Acoustic music from the Freeman’s Collective booth set the mood while committee members for the LBC Yoga Mala sold raffle tickets and shirts to raise additional funds.

“It seemed like [the Pyramid] would be a great place because we’re collaborating with the graduate sports management program and the department of kinesiology,” Kauer said. “It’s a great way to connect the community and the campus.”

Those who are interested in contributing to the cause through Kauer’s Seva Challenge and Off the Mat, Into the World, may donate online at

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