Karma, Dharma and Seva

We tend to think of yoga as a physical movement practice. The reality is that description doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Yoga is a whole philosophy and way of life. This can work both ways. Judith Hanson Lasater says: “what i bring to my yoga mat is really my whole life at this moment- mood, thoughts, beliefs are as much a part of yoga practice as your body is.” So yoga practices can include a real sense of our whole being and lives – but also our lives can be enriched with a sense of yoga throughout them. So let me start this blog from that place of seeing yoga in its wondrously big and broadest sense.

I’ve been writing a lot about Bhakti yoga over the last year but this blog links more to Karma yoga. Karma tends to be a misunderstood and rather loaded term in the West – we imagine something coming back to bite us in the bum minutes after doing something bad. Actually it is more nuanced and karma really translates as action. So Karma yoga is the yoga of everyday life, trying to cultivate right actions and doing things with the best intention with zero expectation of reward, or even what the outcome may be.

Whenever I visit Mandala Yoga Ashram I undertake karma yoga. Sometimes i’m chopping veg, sometimes i’m weeding the gravel drive, sometimes i’m cleaning the toilets. It’s an interesting practice – can i do all of these assigned duties with ease, with the same care and attention or do my thoughts and feelings tell me about how much i like or dislike my given task? Do i slip into moaning about the task? Do i pay it just as much care and attention as my meditation or chanting practices? It’s interesting because Karma yoga perhaps has the tools to really change how we see and act in our lives off the mat. These are questions I can easily ask myself in the rest of my life too – am i giving my all to this task (be it work, cleaning or admin) or am i asleep at the wheel of life. 

Swami Nischalanda said this weekend karma and dharma not only sound similar but are really linked ideas. Karma means action, and dharma means to take action that leads us towards liberation. Another similar term is Seva which is selfless service – giving to help an individual or society without expectation.

We build and develop our community through this selfless service. So I’m delighted to be teaching the charity yoga class at Yoga Boat this Sunday raising money for the Welsh Refugee Council. Come join us for some movement, maybe a little mental stretch and a cuppa with cake afterwards. Please book on at Yogaboat.co.uk