Karma yoga literally translates to “union through action”. During my online 200-hour yoga teacher training course with ULU Yoga, I learned that karma yoga is “the path of performing actions without consideration of desire or selfish needs”. I also learned that this doesn’t mean one should abstain from action entirely, but rather to perform any action with an attitude of service and love. Some people like to do this type of yoga by actively engaging in service work or other forms of activism. But action also comes in terms of thoughts. Which means, what we do and think right here and now has an impact on our future. Our thoughts matter, and because most of our thoughts are concerned with our desires and needs, it might be a good idea to learn how to control that monkey mind of ours. And in such karma yoga is a journey of accumulating knowledge and decreasing ignorance. That in itself makes a yoga program so valuable. The world needs more of that.
Here are some ways to start practicing karma yoga so that you can bring more happiness into your life – and to the world. But first let’s establish the why..
Why do we practice Karma Yoga?
A yoga instructor put it this way: We keep thinking that we are this limited self and therefore have a plethora of desires which continuously creates more karma. To practice karma yoga is to purify the mind and to bring you closer to the divine nature of your own existence. To work on your karma liberates you from the inherited tendency of thinking in the past, and moves you towards thinking about your present duties and what you are supposed to do in this life. In short – turning karma into dharma, or becoming better at what you do and being happy doing it.
How to practice Karma Yoga.
Karma yoga can be practiced in many ways. You can be of service to others and full of love, of course. But probably the best place to start is yourself.
When I first started digging into the principles of the practice I read things like: Freeing ourselves from desire-ridden actions, not neglecting daily duties, understanding that actions govern our existence, engaging the mind in peaceful contemplation, performing actions free from attachment and desire.
Sounds a bit overwhelming, am I right? It does, even when you’re about to become a yoga instructor.
But don’t fret! Again, one of my wonderful teachers in my yoga course reminded me to take it one step at a time. And here’s how you take that first one:
- Duty: Care about your present duties. Prioritize them. Follow them consciously and do them thoroughly – the best way you can. By exercising conscious choice and not just following subconscious impulses. The highest duty is the one towards yourself. Only when you take good care of yourself, can you do what is good for others.
- Ego: Our ego entails all the ideas – good or bad – that you have about yourself. With everything we do we mainly think about the consequences for ourselves. Our life, our image, our advantages etc. We perform karma yoga by letting go of our ego and learning how to control it’s grip.
- Attachment: We are so attached to the outcome of certain actions. Practicing karma yoga is to detach ourselves from the result. This brings us directly to the fourth law of karma yoga.
- Expectations: When we do something we mostly expect something in return. We do our job – we expect our salary. Normal, of course! But we also have expectations when we fall in love or show someone affection for example, which can complicate things. To perform actions without any expectations of a reward puts the emphasis on the duty, and blesses the outcome.
How to incorporate Karma Yoga into your daily life.
For me it all started with signing up for an online yoga instructor course. I’ve always wanted to do one, but simply never did. I was very much into the good old “One day I will do it” way of doing things. Funny enough when Covid hit the dream of getting my yoga instructor certificate actually became a reality. Since then I’ve been consciously and unconsciously incorporating little things and bigger things into my daily life. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. The principle of doing my duty without expecting anything or wanting a certain outcome, has made my life calmer, nicer and more rewarding. I stopped stressing out because I simply focused on the task at hand. Plus, the number-one-go-to strategy of avoidance known by the name of procrastination, just faded into nothingness. A huge benefit that just comes along with the path of selfless action, which is a-mazing.
If you enjoy doing service work, such as volunteering or working with non-profit organizations, you can do that as well. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t find the time to do such things. As mentioned before you already make the world a better place, by bettering yourself.
* Always try your best when doing your duties
* Do not procrastinate – do it now
* Don’t focus on what you get in return
* Detach yourself from the result
* Let go of the ego
* Turn karma into dharma
Karma yoga is an ancient spiritual that purifies the mind and leads to spiritual liberation. The benefits are immense: It contributes to our sense of happiness, value, contentment and self-worth that is not dependent on external situations. We must learn to accept our self-made karma in order to release the chain of life. By practicing karma yoga, we are able to release the ego and become more accepting of our life. It’s only one of the many things I’ve learned from the best yoga teacher training there is – ULU Yoga – and I can’t wait to learn more.