First, a belated happy New Year to all. 2009 promises to be full of interesting challenges.
Last weekend, Jan. 24, was Yoga Day USA. Yoga Alliance, a professional association for yoga teachers, began this national day several years ago as a way of reminding yoga teachers of karma yoga, or (as they put it) the path of service. Yoga Alliance encourages teachers to give free classes on this day, in the hope that as many people as possible may experience the benefit of the practice.
With karma yoga in mind, I caught something in President Obama’s inaugural address the week before. Speaking about the enlisted men and women serving our country around the world, he said “they embody the true spirit of service, a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.” I had never really thought about the military in this way, but at its heart, it is actually more about serving than fighting. One must be willing to give selflessly, for something he or she truly believes in, to be a good soldier.
Many of us feel familiar with the concept of service, but yoga teaches some aspects of it that can add a new dimension to our understanding. For starters, you’re never not acting, even when you’re sitting still. If you stay connected with the intention in your heart as often as possible, then as many of your actions as possible are done in the service of something, rather than nothing.
Also, the most positive actions are those that arise when you stop trying to control outcomes and, instead, surrender to your intention. Those of us who are idealistic tend to make too much effort when things are important, but remember: Even the most excellent soldier isn’t in combat all the time.
I enjoyed practicing this in the free class I taught on Yoga Day USA. Only two students showed up, but we shared a meaningful experience. In honor of the day, we breathed and moved with the intention of serving something greater, something each of us identified deeper in herself. And together, we heightened our awareness of the contribution each individual makes to the universe.
Though the day set aside for karma yoga has passed, may we take this awareness with us every day, and continue to practice service throughout the year.