what is karma yoga?

You are invited to Karma Yoga
This is an opportunity to be in at the beginning – auspicious, they say. Take part in community, reap the benefits of karma yoga and have nice food. Please be in touch to arrange.

Thursdays are karma yoga days! Join us 11 – 5.30, or part of that. Lunch and stay for the evening class at 7pm. You are welcome to rest before the class and browse the gardening and yoga bookshelves, for instance. A snack at 4.30 if you want to stay for the evening.

RSVP and I will match up for car-sharing where wanted/possible. No cost. Your help and company appreciated.

When I was formulating Viveka Gardens, either serving in the Sivananda organisation or doing voluntary work myself as a Woofer I worried about how to set up the project: should it be a community (but I know this can’t be manufactured)? Could it be ashram-like in that people come and share their skills? Could it be a haven that people would pass through and maybe return to at different times in their journey, tuning into the seasons, seeing, for instance the currants ripen, make jam, learn to prune them and maybe fell ownership year after year.

One place where there was such a passing through community I asked the leader/owner how it worked – how come people came and worked a six hour day? What did they get in return? She explained that often people are in between stages, there has maybe been loss, or change, either enforced or chosen. It gave them time to think things through, that differnt work, fresh air, a different community gives space to process and explore. From a yoga perspective, karma yoga is just as much about restoring the self as any of the other paths of yoga.

Karma yoga – selfless service – is one of the four paths of yoga. Karma yoga can be any service, cleaning, cooking, painting, gardening, admin or maybe lending your expertise as a gardener, handyperson, photographer, teacher, interior designer, IT specialist or general have-a-goer! Giving without expectation of reward allows clearer understanding of ‘I am enough’, freeing from the inevitable conditioning of contemporary life where advertising, lifestyle magazines and much other media is designed to make us dissatisfied.

22934398261_8891d49909_kThe karma yoga task you have may be lowly compared to what you usually do or really quite challenging. If the task is outside your comfort zone or onerous in some way, the learning can be all the more.

Gandhi famously insisted all ashram guests – high caste and well-educated included – clean the latrines so they learn humility. In doing menial tasks with dignity and honour, the larger tasks involved with fighting for equality become easier, he said. KY is a great leveller and ego-reducer.

In practice, karma yoga is pleasant because of a feeling of contribution and being part of a worthwhile project. There is cameraderie, and usually food at some point, food cooked by another karma yogi! Viveka Gardens has many karma yoga projects. You can contribute to the garden and the running of retreats, for instance. Full guidance is given and it’s an opportunity to maybe learn some skills. For longer term or regular volunteers coaching is offered so you make the most of the experience.

Karma yoga is more than simple volunteering and inevitably a practice of self-reflection. When you give over your actions with no expectation of reward you practise reducing the little ‘I’ or ego. All that has to be done is what is asked, no more, no less. And so Do you either feel bored or worried thinking about yourself and your concerns? Or wonder what you should be doing in life? It’s for these reasons that selfless service – the practice of karma yoga – is a useful activity.

20161023_105257It’s a chance to forget yourself and get a bigger perspective, ideally a perspective that involves seeing the scale of one’s own importance. If, and it’s more like when, resentment arises, there’s an opportunity to observe the resistance in the heart, and in time, replace it with love. ‘Karma’ means ‘action’. Karma yoga is positive action. With humility and love in your heart it’s easier to see one’s path in life, and go forward with a positive vibration.

Lastly, KY is one of the four classic yoga paths leading to liberation. It is pertinent that ‘serve’ comes first in Swami Sivananda’s instruction, ‘serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realise’, in the sense that it’s a basic tool for working with the self.

Four paths of yoga:

  • Bhakti yoga (click link)
  • Jnana  yoga – studying of the scriptures and through philosophical effort
  • Raja yoga – the royal path including the practices of hatha yoga and meditation
  • Karma Yoga