You’ve heard of karma. And you’ve heard of yoga. But karma yoga? What even is that? While karma yoga can mean a lot of different things to different people, the general idea is taking the philosophy of yoga and putting it in action. This means stepping off of the mat and into the world. It means humbling your ego, serving your community, and being part of something bigger than yourself.
Yogic philosophy and its relation to service
Traditionally, yoga wasn’t about the poses, or asanas. “Yoga” is a Sanskrit word that translates in English to “union.” The roots of yoga are founded in a philosophy of union. Union of the mind, body and soul. Union of the self with the divine. It’s the concept of oneness—of each individual being a part of a universal consciousness.
There are four main paths of yoga: Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Karma Yoga. Raja yoga is the yoga of mind and body control. Its focus is on meditation and energetics. It is from Raja yoga that hatha yoga and modern asana practice developed. Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion and focuses on devoting yourself to worship of the divine. Jnana yoga is the yoga of wisdom and encourages people to study the ancient scriptures such as The Upanishads.
And then there’s karma yoga. Karma yoga is the yoga of action. It’s about purifying your heart by learning to act selflessly in service of others. Through karma yoga we learn kindness and compassion without an expectation of gain. The idea being that learning these lessons helps us to step away from our ego, freeing us to move one step further on the path to enlightenment.
Service can be a powerful means of releasing yourself of your ego, learning to act from pure intentions, and connecting with the bigger picture. Service is at the heart of karma yoga and it is this belief in the power of karma yoga and the importance of giving back that is at the core of our company.
How you can practice karma yoga in your life
There are many ways to embrace karma yoga in your life. Whether it’s giving a neighbor a helping hand or traveling abroad to engage in global service, the opportunities are endless.
Whatever you choose to do, making service a regular part of your life is key to practicing karma yoga. We recommend making a weekly commitment to engage with a local charity, giving your time and talents to support the work they do. Another option is to make global service an annual tradition. Or both!
When it comes to karma yoga, it is important that the service comes from a selfless place. It is about giving to those in need, sharing love, and spreading light. Some ways to encourage this mindset are to practice keeping a mental mantra. Something that reminds you the purpose of your service and keeps you grounded outside of the ego. Another useful practice is to get to know the people you are serving. Rather than thinking of service in the abstract, get on the ground and communicate with those you serve.
Let yourself be humbled by their knowledge and experience. Forge meaningful connections and let yourself be touched by their lives and stories. In this way, karma yoga can become more than just a practice. It can become a way of life.