Karma Yoga is one of the many branches of Yoga practice that is practiced widely, but not always labelled “yoga”. Karma Yoga is the practice of “selfless service”, and is practiced in your random act of kindness, your volunteer activities, your donations or participation in charity events, and in your service to others – even in the workplace. Karma Yoga is considered one of the highest forms of Yoga, and like all forms of Yoga gives us an opportunity for personal growth, spiritual development, and self-realization.
The past few months have been full of opportunities to practice Karma Yoga in charity fun runs, walks, food drives, and the recent 108 Yoga Aid Challenge. September in Canada saw the Terry Fox Run, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month with events worldwide, and November sees an interesting charity drive in Australia called “Mo-vember”, where men compete to grow the longest moustache by the end of the month-all to raise funds and awareness of prostate cancer. All these opportunities for Karma Yoga have got me thinking about the idea of selfless service…can it really be selfless?
When you enrol in a charity “fun-run”, your training for the event gives you better health. When you help out at a soup kitchen or food drive, you get to meet great new people and feel good about lending a helping hand. When you write a cheque to support a fundraising effort, you get a tax deduction. So, can we really offer “selfless service”, or is there always a reward for our efforts?
A recent article in the IDEA Fitness Journal on “Flow” based on the work of Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness, suggest that “the highest level of happiness occurs when we are in flow in activities that have a higher purpose-where we are contributing to the world.” So, our fitness, Yoga and lifestyle activities, which bring us a great deal of health and happiness already, move us deeper into a state of flow and a state of happiness when we are offering our efforts to something greater then ourselves.
In Yoga, this is done when we offer the fruits of our practice to another, or to the world. At the beginning and end of your practice you can silently (or with a chant) offer the fruits of your practice to someone in need, or simply to contribute to a better world. This is one way that you can bring your practice to the world, and bring the world into your practice.
I’m interested to hear about your Karma Yoga activities, and how you inspire the world by giving back. Send your Karma Yoga activities and ideas to email@example.com and “inspire the world” one person at a time.
First published in the Mind Body Messenger Newsletter 2008