“It’s called karma,” you say when you hear of someone’s fortune turning for the worse, or the for the better.
“They were due for this,” you exclaim with a knowing eye.
“They totally deserve this break!” you say as you smile at the Universe coming into order.
Let’s face it, the word karma is a pop culture way to explain good and bad luck. We sound chic and knowledgeable when we pepper our conversation with it, but few of us actually grasp the meaning of karma, or know anything about karma yoga.
Karma is defined as the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. That sounds like what you thought right? Well, maybe you don’t believe in reincarnation – you get one shot and that’s it. Then it really is what you thought – karma is the sum of your actions. What you put out into the world, you get back. But if you do believe in reincarnation this helps to make some sense as to why some people have more trials and tribulations than others as they unload their karmic debt from their past lives. Which is why, “Karma’s a bitch (sorry Mom!),” is such a popular phrase.
“Well, what’s the difference between this and Karma Yoga?” you might ask. Karma Yoga is the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection. Now, please do not read into this that I am telling you the key to being perfect in this blog post. Perfection used in this way is calling on you to be perfectly You, functioning in the Universe as you were intended to be, using your talents for the good of everyone around you, whether you think you have a crooked nose or thick thighs (I’m here to tell you that you have an awesome nose and strong thighs).
Based on the teachings from the Bhagavad Gita, Karma Yoga is primarily the practice of selfless service to humanity whereby a spiritual seeker attempts to give their actions selflessly without hoping for merit, fame or glory. Practicing Karma Yoga eventually takes the seeker to the point of mental purification, oneness with humanity and inner peace by continually offering action selflessly to God and humanity. Ultimately Karma Yoga practice brings true Knowledge of the Self and prepares one to be receptive to the divine light of God.
Deep, right? It can be, but as I always tell my students in the hot room, the postures and the concepts we teach you in yoga are simple, but not easy. We so often want that glory or reward when we do something good. Karma Yoga is about deciding to do the right thing regardless of that, or even better, reaching to do something for someone else that you may have never done before, simply with the intention to make someone else’s life better.
So, how do we practice Karma Yoga? Here are a few ideas to get you started, but know that there is no limit to the good you can do for your fellow neighbors, near and far, as well as, the entire planet.
- Practice small acts of kindness. Buy someone’s coffee in line at Starbucks. Give a lift to a fellow yogi to get to the studio for class. Leave a small gift on someone’s desk at work with no name on the card. Hold the door for someone. Bring flowers to your yoga studio owner (they do so much behind the scenes to bring the yoga to you!).
- Donate your time. I can’t say it enough: Your time is your most precious commodity in this life. Giving your time to a cause you believe in is some great Karma Yoga. Feed people in need. Take care of dogs and cats that have been abandoned. Help build a house for a family in need. There are so many great causes out there that there are a ton of possibilities to connect with others in this way.
- Be the light. Encourage someone to go for their dream. Tell someone they look great today. Compliment someone on their smile. Be a shoulder to lean on when someone needs to talk and unload. Promote a friend’s business on social media.
- Yogis – this one is specifically for you. Host a Donation Class at your studio. Studio owners take one class out of your schedule once a year and donate the proceeds to a cause you and your community can get behind. This helps your community to practice Karma Yoga together and can unite the bonds between your students. Check out the Beyond the Podium Column on VFTP for ideas of causes that you can get behind. I would love to connect you with Rachel Kuhn to help get you involved in the Feed the World Yoga Tour which raises money to feed children in need throughout the world – an awesome cause that has raised over $15,000 over the past 2 years, , feeding over 180 children for a year!
There are a ton of ways to get out there and give to the world. It doesn’t have to be some big thing, it simply needs to come from the heart. Get out there and shine this week!
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