Yoga student and Lush Life columnist, Mahesh Hayward, explains why he is practising Karmic Yoga this week and how he is learning this is a simple and direct path to becoming the more loving man he wants to be in all aspects of his life
As you may or may not know, I’m currently training to become a yoga teacher, and I wanted to start to talk about how this affects my life and those around me. I also would like you to read this with an open mind and maybe see if there are aspects of this ancient belief and philosophy that you too can bring into your daily life.
So, lets start at the beginning…
I am learning about Integral Yoga which was brought to the West by Swami Satchidananda in 1966 when he visited for the first time from his homeland India. He was a pupil of His Holiness Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj, who studied in Rishikesh at the beginning of his spiritual service. Swami Satchidananda famously opened Woodstock festival in 1969 with this line:
“The whole world is watching you. The entire world is going to know what the American youth can do for humanity. America is helping everybody in the material field, but the time has come for America to help the whole world spirituality also.”
And so, this modest Indian man started “Integral Yoga” - a Yogic tradition which is known as an interfaith movement - all around the world
The principles of nonviolence and universal harmony are a key point to the teachings. He went on to open (LOTUS) Light of Truth Universal Shrine in 1986 for all faiths to worship and pray and became synonymous with loving kindness. Now it’s my turn to hold a light up to the world and try to do my little bit for the planet and I have chosen Yoga as my conduit to share this message. The reason I chose Integral yoga is because I really like the blend of many paths of the same tradition, and there are six paths to my yoga.
Hatha Yoga – Predominantly concerned with the physical development.
Raja Yoga – Which is more based around concentration and meditation.
Bhakti Yoga – The path of devotion.
Karma Yoga – Performing duties without attachment to the fruits (or results) of the action.
Jnana Yoga – Path of wisdom, one that realizes oneness with the entire Universe.
Japa Yoga – The repetition of a Mantram.
These elements form one beautiful system, and yoga has helped me to become the man I wish to be. This week in our class we have been asked to live our lives as a Karma Yogi and witness how it affects us and the people we meet in the real world. What does it mean to be a Karma Yogi? Well Karma is about the acts you perform day-to-day and the impact of those acts on the people around you. The key is to not look at the end result of the task in hand but focus instead how you perform it whilst you are doing it.
An act becomes perfect when you do it with all joy, without expecting anything in return. This sounds very easy and it is, but how many times do we perform a task and then we are upset when we do not receive the amount of praise we expect from it? Let’s just think for a minute how we do this in just small ways. Flash someone in your car to let them out of a junction, say good morning to someone on the way to work, send a birthday card in the post or a message by text.
All the little things we do to be “nice” should be done without the recipient giving us praise, because if you are doing something out of kindness that should be reward enough. From the moment you wake to the time your head hits the pillow you are engaged in one action or another, so everything can be Karma yoga. You can do this Yoga wherever you are, and this is the beauty of Karma, you can be a Yogi throughout the day, throughout your life.
Analyse your motives and ask yourself does this bring joy to others and of course to yourself? Always analyse in those terms and you will find yourself with less stress and disappointment, because disappointment only comes from you not what others do around you. This is also the way we can avoid so much pain in our lives. Look for what you can do to help others around you without craving any rewards, because if you enjoy the task in hand that is the reward.
We can learn to please ourselves at the same time helping others; this is cause and effect. Your thoughts of “it’s our home, our town, our world” are the thoughts of a person with kindness and devotion rather than “me, my town, my home, my world”. When you stop looking for a return on your kindness you will find a shift in how you feel - this is then you receiving inner peace. It feels good and don’t worry when this feeling becomes more intense the more you open yourself to giving.
Let’s be clear, we are always checking in with our true intent when we live as a Karma Yogi, and not least because it’s so easy for the EGO to step in and start to tell us how wonderful we are. So, check in with yourself and just allow the pure nature of loving kindness to emanate from your very core.
Try today to live your life as a Karma Yogi; see others around you in a new way, ask yourself how can I be of service to others? Only give what you can of yourself and make sure that you are also well and content with whatever action you do, even if it’s something as simple as making someone a cup of tea.
Let us know what you did, how it felt to work with just the intent of Karma and to share the loving kindness. Please look after yourself and say hello to a stranger today, that’s always a good start.
Mahesh Hayward is a regular Lush Life columnist writing on issues of Wellbeing and the challenges of Modern Living. You can connect with him on Twitter at @Beardedvegan1