Asana practice is perhaps the most commonly known forms of yoga worldwide from the whole yoga philosophy. It is part of the Raja yoga path by Sage Patanjali, as the third limb amongst the eight. Although asana practice is a powerful tool we have available in our life, the way we practice it matters.
Our intention when we step on the mat plays a key role in our practice. These days, many are more focused on performing asanas instead of developing a steady foundation for the body and mind. We want to keep moving, to use the asanas as a means of getting fit and in shape, resisting the essence of the practice, which is about stillness and awareness. We rush to do a more anatomically complex asana, just to prove to ourselves that we can do it or to take a photo and share with the world our physical abilities, ignoring the true purpose of the postures, which is to develop strength and flexibility, so that we can be still and get mental clarity.
I mention the above because I also went through these stages throughout my yoga journey. And as a teacher, I often see these in my students but I also see the shift in their approach once I teach them the philosophy.
I was blessed enough early on in my yoga journey with amazing teachers who brought me the true meaning of the asana practice. I remember a time when I asked one of my teachers to help me with a specific asana I was trying to “master”. She immediately said no and told me to never ask again for an asana. I remember being so annoyed and upset. In that moment, I couldn’t believe it. I was thinking “how can this be, this is my teacher, why is she not teaching me?”.
But I respect my teachers so I trusted there was a reason for this. Indeed there was and with a little time, I understood it. She said no not because I couldn’t do it, or because she didn’t believe in me or that she didn’t want to help me. She said no so that I learn to be humble on the mat and allow my practice to unfold naturally. My desire to do this anatomically advanced asana was simply my ego trying to get a boost and validation. To this day, this has been one of the best lessons a teacher ever gave me and I gained even more respect for her. She is still my teacher and one of the most authentic yoga teachers I have ever met. I have also never asked for an asana again nor I have the desire to.
I learned the philosophy and continued to remain focused on this. The philosophy is the root of the practice and it is what takes it from a physical practice to a sadhana, a spiritual practice.
The wisdom of it is not what happens externally, but what is experienced internally through awareness and concentration. We can have a level of perfection in doing the postures if we have a natural strength and flexibility tendency. But does this really matter?
Does this make us better humans?
Are we more compassionate if we can hold an arm balance for a prolonged period of time?
Do we become more patient by pushing ourselves through a sweaty Vinyasa flow?
Do we heal and learn to forgive by doing a handstand?
And most importantly, does our asana practice help us get closer to who we really are?
These are all questions of self-enquiry to contemplate upon from time to time. Whatever you answer is, this reveals the meaning of your practice currently. Then you can understand if it is taking you to a higher level of knowledge or if you need to adjust it so that it is not an ego based practice. There is no right or wrong, it is a reflective process to give you clarity on how you are using your practice.
At some point, we will age, our bodies will become more frail and our minds more forgetful. What will we do then if our attitude to our practice is about external pleasure instead of internal calm and steadiness…
Perhaps the most important taking from this is to learn that your practice is personal. Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the first and most important Hatha Yoga texts teaches us this when mentioning that our practice should be kept private between our physical form and true Self and with the guidance of our teacher. Then there is no need to prove anything, it is a means of unfolding through the layers of the body and mind to go inwards, to learn and to focus.
Focus more on being present on the mat, rather than endlessly trying to master an asana.
Focus on finding a good teacher that can lead you on your yoga path, who you trust and respect.
Focus on learning to breathe correctly, on practicing pranayama, on training your mind to concentrate.
There is a reason why asana practice is not part of the highest forms of spiritual practices in the Ashtanga eightfold path, although it is indeed an important aspect as are all of the eight limbs. My understanding of this is that aside from developing the physical purification, strength and flexibility which are indeed essential, through it we will also learn to shift our attention internally and not give into our ego. Then naturally pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) naturally come. When we truly learn this, perhaps self-realisation is closer to attain.
Until then, practice with joy, with respect for the practice and for your teachers, with self-belief and humbleness. It is not a competition on how good we can be in the asanas, this does not exist in the practice. It is about the teachings that unfold through the process of willingly working with the body and mind to reach a harmonious and balanced state.
Yoga as a philosophy is much more complex and goes beyond our practice on the mat. The philosophy presents us with four paths (karma, bhakti, raja, jnana) which we can choose based on our character and temperament, to take us on a spiritual journey towards self-knowledge. Although these paths are different in their practices, they can also be combined, which often ends up being the case. As we explore one path, another merges into our curiosity and so on.
Let’s look at some practices from each of the four paths and how these can help us embrace change in our life and live more joyfully and calm.
ASANA PRACTICE - FROM THE RAJA YOGA PATH
As a physical practice, our asana journey can certainly teach us plenty on the mat which can be transferred into our daily life. Going through the process of learning each asana, gives us the opportunity to remain open and believe in ourselves. Whatever asana style practice you do, it always comes with challenges. The practice itself requires discipline and commitment, consistency and being open to learn. Nobody begins an asana with knowing it, we all have to start fresh and through this process we can expand our knowledge. An asana that seemed impossible at one point, teaches us that with patience, practice and self-belief anything is possible. But we must first start and continue no matter how long the process takes. This journey reflects a new beginning in life and every time we surrender to an asana, we learn to practice being present, in acceptance of all we have right now, in this moment.
SELF-ENQUIRY - FROM THE JNANA YOGA PATH
The path of knowledge shows us the way to meditation through practicing self-enquiry. This leads one to know one self through witnessing the physical self and through discernment of what is real and what is illusion. Jnana yoga takes so much learning and self-study, practice and observation. But it is in this process we start to open our mind to the infinite possibilities that once seemed limited. The mind is limited by space and time, yet when we realise that we are more than the body and the mind, we can understand that change in the physical world does not affect the true Self. It is simply another experience that we can have as the physical self. Therefore, we surrender to change because it is just a natural cycle of life. What changes is the material, but the Self always remains unaffected. It is always the witness of it all.
BEING OF SERVICE - FROM THE KARMA YOGA PATH
The path of action teaches us to be humble yet to use our skills, abilities and talents for the highest good of all. The main teaching of this path is to be of service to the world selflessly. Although it is true we need to earn money to secure at least our basic needs, if we focus on being of service and useful in the world, then this will come. Any selfish act does not bring much good, or at least not in the long run. Change can be overwhelming and we will face uncertainty, but if we remember that our purpose is to serve in our own unique way, we will always find an opportunity to do so. When our intention goes beyond the ego, “for me, for my good only” and we take action to be useful for a collective purpose, we naturally open doors of opportunity for ourselves. We are not attached to a specific job or status but instead we take action with the intention to be purposeful to the world (others, the environment and all creatures of this world).
DEVOTION & LOVE - FROM THE BHAKTI YOGA PATH
The path of love teaches us devotion to the Divine. Whilst yoga is not a religion, acording to Bhakti yoga, to know the higher Self, we first need to realise the idea of this Divine essence, to understand that we are not the body or the mind. So devotion and unconditional love to a higher state/Divine, later on the spiritual journey, brings us to the realisation of “I am that”, and “you are that”. The understanding that all beings and material existence are this Divine essence. Therefore, by practicing Bhakti, love becomes the intention of all we experience, think, say and do. This path is about surrendering the ego and when we are faced with change, ego can feel very uncomfortable. Therefore, out of fear we can resist the unknown. But knowing that we are this Divine infinite consciousness, there is no fear. We approach all circumstances of life with faith and a deeper knowing that no matter what, we are not bound by it or anything on the physical realm.
Learn about the meaning of what is Pratyahara in yoga philosophy and how can we practice it.
In the Raja yoga path, Patanjali gives insight into 8 steps towards Moksha/liberation. The Ashtanga eightfold path otherwise known as the 8 limbs of Yoga, is a very clear set of practices towards enlightenment (referred to as Samadhi which is the 8th limb). The Ashtanga eightfold path was created for everybody seeking to find this sense of freedom and spiritual enlightenment, so it is accessible to all who wish to embark on this journey.
UNDERSTANDING PRATYAHARA - SENSE WITHDRAWAL
The 5th limb is known as Pratyahara which refers to sense withdrawal. The mind receives information from the external world through the 5 senses (smell, sight, taste, touch, hearing) which bring it into our internal world. Here, the intellect makes decisions based on discernment and assessment of factual information and where the ego usually interferes. As each sense is connected to a specific body part, not only is the mind stimulated with the information, but also the body, by developing a physiological response to the information received. The eyes give us the ability to see. We can smell all kinds of scents with our nose. We can hear external sounds with our ears. We can taste with our tongue and finally we can experience feeling/the sense of touch through our skin.
WHY IS PRATYAHARA IMPORTANT IN OUR YOGA PATH?
Pratyahara can also be interpreted as the leap or bridge between the first four limbs (yamas, nyamas, asana, pranayama) which are more related with the external world practices and the last three limbs (dharana, dhyana, samadhi) which are internal and considered the higher spiritual practices. Therefore, a great emphasis can be placed on sense withdrawal. Of course we need the senses to experience the world, but when we practice sense withdrawal we can move onto experiencing the internal world with more insight. For a focused mind, the senses function very clearly. But for a scattered mind, they can easily cause distraction. For example, some people say they find it difficult to practice meditation. But why? Meditation is a mental focus practice so difficulty can come when we cannot focus the mind because the senses stimulate an internal response or reaction from the information received. We sit down, close our eyes and then we can smell a delicious food smell from the kitchen. Now the mind is focused on food. “I feel hungry” or “Ah that smells so delicious”. Let’s say we are able to come back into mental focus. Then a mosquito starts flying around, making a loud sound and occasionally wonders on the arm. Now the sense of hearing and touch are activated. Again distraction occurs.
When we practice Pratyahara, we bring the senses inward, so we are focused internally regardless what happens in the external environment. And this also naturally creates connection with the 6th & 7th limbs, dharana (concentration) & dhyana (meditation). Only through pratyahara these can occur. Pratyahara is an important practice which takes time and through consistency one can reach the ability to control impulses or reactions based on the information received from the senses.
HOW CAN WE PRACTICE PRATYAHARA?
The most obvious way is to close our eyes, which immediately eliminates any distraction experienced through our vision. Whilst this is indeed effective, mental focus has to be there which as mentioned above, sometimes can be a challenge until we train the mind to be still. So the below practices and techniques may help as they are all focused on sense withdrawal and teaching our mind to concentrate. Whilst not all senses are withdrawn at the same time, focusing the mind on a specific one or two, can help to minimise the distraction caused by the others.
This is a very effective way which can bring our focus to the breath, not only observing the breath but actually counting each inhalation and exhalation. One can count up to 50 for example (one full breath is an inhalation and exhalation). This technique has also been related to bringing a sense of calm for those who experience stress or anxiety. The sense of feeling is more active in this practice, as we focus on feeling the flow of the breath.
2. FOCUSING ON ONE SOUND
In this technique, we activate our sense of hearing and focus on a specific sound. This can from the be outside such as a melody, the singing of a bird, the sound of rain etc. It is helpful for the sound to be the same for a longer period of time so that the mind does not become distracted.
This is actually considered a meditation practice and one of the shat (six) kryas or yogic purification techniques. Trataka is the practice of steady gazing at one object. A common object is a lit candle, where the focus is placed on the flame of the candle. Trataka is best done in a dark room, with the only light coming from the flame. Traditionally in this practice, one can try not to blink the eyes and just keep a steady gaze. Trataka can be practiced with any object, although it is useful to use one that is neutral and does not have any emotional
meaning. Trataka helps to purify the mind and it also strengthens the eyes/vision.
Repeating a mantra is a spiritual practice which can lead to a deep state of meditation. It is otherwise known as Japa meditation, where a mantra is repeated for a duration of time. Usually, a full japa practice is the repetition of a mantra for 108 times. The mantra can be repeated out loud, whispered or mentally focused upon. Japa is done using mala beads to count the repetition, although it is also possible to practice it without, therefore not focusing on the number of repetitions. The focus object is the mantra itself and the mind becomes concentrated solely on it.
The following are 5 important principles of yoga asana practice based on my experience, learning and teaching.
Asana practice is a beautiful and life long journey. As a part of the yoga philosophy teachings, asanas are a great tool towards becoming stronger mentally and physically, adaptable and flexible, steady and focused, compassionate and humble. Sometimes our practice is dynamic and strong, other times it is a gentle and soft. But we can always remember that it is a sadhana, a spiritual practice and not a performance of different postures. Therefore, we can learn to understand our practice better by doing it from a place of truth and willingness to explore the depths of it. These principles may provide us with some insight into how we can practice yoga asana more mindfully.
I will start with the breathing because in my opinion, this is the most important. If we are not breathing correctly in an asana, then it is no use being it in. The breath is the fuel of our physical existence, and every movement is guided by it if we allow it. The breath can take us into an asana with vitality & depth and it helps us exit one safely. It gives us the strength and flexibility to be steady in a posture. When you begin your practice, regardless which style you follow, first take some deep breaths. Begin to feel the rhythm of your breath and ground yourself. Being in the asana and breathing at ease, means that you can be more steady in it and all your body receive enough oxygen.
Each asana is different but there are some key postures which can help is understand the alignment for most of others. For example, the standing asanas follow the alignment of Tadasana, which is the foundational asana for all standing postures. For the seated ones, the foundational asana is Dandasana and so on. Alignment is important in my opinion, not because we want to be “perfect” in the posture, but to avoid injury or pressure on the body. No matter at what level you are, if you use yoga props, asana modifications or practice more advanced variations, understanding the way the body is aligned on each one is a key component of the whole posture. Through my many years of practice and teaching, the best way I have found to do so is by being aware of my body in the asana; is the breath flowing with ease? Are the shoulders & chest open? Am I grounding the feet? And so on. Depending on the asana, you can get an idea of this. Mirrors are not needed, it is best to feel it and learn to listen to your body. Traditionally, mirrors are not used in a yoga asana setting because the practice takes us inward, not outward to look at ourselves.
Drishti refers to the gaze or the focus point when in a yoga posture. Why do we need to use this? The main reason is that it keeps the mind focused. I always say “where the drishti goes, the mind stays focused”. It also helps us to guide the body into the asana. Drishti can support maintain correct alignment. For example, in Vrksasana (tree pose) the drishti is forward and it helps if it is a steady point you are gazing at. If for example, the gaze is down, then the head turns towards the floor, therefore the cervical spine is not in the correct alignment as this creates flexion in this area. For me, drishti is a key principle no matter which style of asana I practice or teach.
Regardless if we are more advanced in our practice or brand new to it, there is no place for ego on the mat. Every time we begin our practice, we can acknowledge that it is a new experience; forget about yesterday’s one and focus in this present moment. Our body changes constantly and so does the mind. The condition the body and mind are in today might be different from yesterday, so learn to adjust and acknowledge this. Approach the practice with a new beginning concept. Practice from a space of humbleness and willing to explore each asana without allowing the ego to disrupt. Even if a practitioner can do the most advanced asanas, there is always something to learn. So humbleness will set the ego back and always keep us open to the teachings of our practice.
Without a doubt, one of the most fundamental teachings of the yoga philosophy is that no matter what you practice, be consistent in it. This will give us the will-power to commit to it and to make it a priority (if this is something you want to do). Yoga asana is not about performing postures, but about balance, strength, flexibility and finally steadiness. These apply to our physical, mental/emotional aspects. Only when a practice is consistent, we can truly realise the beauty of it, the depth of each asana and of course develop a meaningful connection with our Self. The more we practice (following the above principles), the more fluid and open we become for our practice. Consistency will give your body and mind the tools to dive deep into your practice, not because you will be able to do asanas with more ease, but because harmony and balance will develop on all aspects of your life on and off the mat.
Understanding the connection between Ayurveda and Yoga can bring us closer to connecting with both in our daily life. I will try to simplify this post because there is so much information about both systems. However I will focus on the main points and a small introduction to both so that it is (hopefully) clear to understand for those who are maybe new to these or for those who want to understand the connection between the two.
Yoga and Ayurveda originated in India and date back to over 5000 years ago. They both have their roots in Samkhya philosophy. In my opinion, living an Ayurvedic lifestyle naturally also takes one into yogic practices. Similarly one who practices yoga (not just asana practice), naturally also implements Ayurvedic daily habits. They cannot be separated.
Ayurveda is often named as the sister science of yoga, but what does this mean and how are Ayurveda and Yoga related?
WHAT IS AYURVEDA?
Ayurveda is translated as "The knowledge of life" or "The science of life". The word "veda" means knowledge and "ayur" can be referred to life. Ayurveda is a holistic approach to wellness and healthy lifestyle. It is essentially a holistic system which focuses on maintaining good health and wellbeing. The root of everything in Ayurveda stems from the "3 doshas" which are known as the body constitutions. According to Ayurveda, there are 3 different types of individual make-up which are unique to each person and in accordance with the 5 universal elements (earth, fire, water, air, space). Each one of these doshas is represented by the combination of 2 elements and each individual is said to have a different percentage of these. The three doshas are :Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), Kapha (earth and water).
According to Ayurveda, maintaining a balanced lifestyle is based on knowing, understanding and making decisions and habits that best harmonise and balance a person's individual dosha. Although we have all three of them, one is usually more dominant than the others. (I have written more posts on Ayurveda specifically which you can find in the Ayurveda section).
WHAT IS YOGA?
Yoga is darshana, a philosophy of life as such, which dates back to the Vedas. Although it is common to think of yoga as just the asana practice, this is a small part of it, which is mentioned mainly in the Raja yoga path/the eight limbs of Yoga by Patanjali. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj" which refers to "union" , "to bind" or bringing together in union. Yoga offers four different paths which are Bhkati, Raja, Karma and Jnana (you can learn about each one in this post). Each path comes with its set of spiritual practices and tools for the aspirant to follow in their yogic journey. The reason for yoga (I try to avoid the word "goal) is to bring the student/yoga practitioner to Moksha, a state of freedom from ignorance of one's true nature and in union with the Divine essence or infinite consciousness that is present within all manifested form. Now then, we can understand where the “union” or “bringing together meaning refers to.
AYURVEDA & YOGA TOGETHER
Ayurveda focuses primarily on the health and wellbeing aspect. The Ayurvedic habits and routines provide a helpful approach to daily lifestyle choices such as the type of food one eats, daily activities and exercises, quality of sleep, how to nurture and nourish ourselves not only physically through food but through all daily habits always in accordance to a person’s dosha type. Ayurvedic medicine also involves the use of specific herbs to treat some illnesses or doshic imbalances, and the use of spices in foods and drinks (such as tea or specific herb beverages) for the same reason, to create balance in the body and mind. Ayurveda can help us to purify the physical body through the foods, spices, herbs and body treatments it provides. Some examples of these are Abhyanaga, Panchakarma, Shirodhara etc.
Yoga is a discipline and it focuses on following the specific practices towards evolving spiritually and bringing the mind into a state of stillness. Like Ayurveda, it can also help to purify the physical body through asana or kryas (yogis purification practices), however pranayama practices go deeper to the subtle body/energy body. Mental purification is one of the main aspects of Yoga, which can be done through dhyana (meditation) or bhakti/devotion which are considered higher spiritual practices. Only when the mind is purified and stripped away from impurities, thoughts & emotions can be understood and balanced and ego is tamed; then one can grow towards Moksha.
Practiced together, Ayurveda and Yoga provide a complete holistic approach to a balanced, harmonised and healthier lifestyle.
All asanas have incredible benefits for the body, mind & energy centres. Although asana practice has not originated for the purpose of specific benefits other than to take us to the higher spiritual practices through purification, we cannot deny the great effects of it on all aspects, physical, mental/emotional and spiritual.
These 10 asanas provide an overall balanced practice focusing on physical and mental balance & harmony. Each of these stimulates prana flow in specific areas and chakras which can help feel more energised and remove any energy stagnation. I took in consideration all levels practitioners and asanas that are less anatomically complex although very effective, which can be practiced either together as a sequence or added to your daily practice. Of course if you already have an established daily asana practice or follow a specific method, then these may not apply for you.
Yoga props can also be used if needed for supporting the body into these asanas.
Start the day in stillness and silence focusing on the breath. Sukhasana is a gentle hip opening posture (can sit on a block if there is stiffness in the hips) and helps us to ground and prepare ourselves for the practice. Take a few deep breaths and maybe if it is part of your practice, set a Sankalpa/an intention for your practice and your day.
Develop a strong foundation physically, mentally, emotionally. This is a grounding asana which strengthens the lower body & activates Muladhara, the root chakra. Its name comes from Vira meaning hero, and Virabhadra, a Hindu Mythology warrior, so it is an empowering posture which can teach us self-belief and help us develop mental concentration.
Malasana is in my opinion a daily must do. It is one of the best asanas for digestion and bloating/gas relief, stimulating apana prana (the prana moving downwards which controls the excretion of the bodily waste). It is also a hip opening posture and helps us to create stability and balance on our feet.
4.EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA
This is the variation I of the asana, which is the first variation for the original asana with the backbend. It relieves tension from the hips & leg muscles, and helps to gently soothe lower back tension/discomfort. It activates Swadisthana, the sacral chakra, which is our centre of creativity, fluidity in life, sensuality, desire and emotions.
Although it looks like a very simple seated asana, when done correctly, it is strong and for some can feel challenging, especially if there is stiffness of the hamstrings or weakness in the core (in which case you can sit on a block). Dandasana is the foundational asana for all seated postures. It improves/maintains correct body posture, strengthens the core & quads, stretches the hamstrings, develops grounding & promotes stillness.
Uttanasana is an inversion posture therefore it reverses the pranic flow to the head. It stimulates the digestive organs, kidneys and liver, stretches the hamstrings, strengthens the ankle joints, stretches the spine and it provides an introspective state.
Whether you practice this variation, or the reclined one, spinal twists in my opinion are helpful to be done daily. The spine is the main centre of communication between the mind and body, therefore it is important to keep iflexible and strong. Ardha Matsyendrasana (or any other spinal twist asana) develops spine flexibility, cleanses the digestive organs, energise the mind, boosts circulation & creates movement the stomach area. For this reason, it is helpful to practice it in the morning, before taking food.
Bhujangasana is a beautiful backbending asana which strengthens the spine, opens the chest and shoulders, strengthens the arms, shoulders and back muscles. The variation Salamba Bhujangasana/Sphinx pose can also be practiced as an alternative, especially when there is any stiffness of the spine or discomfort in the lower back, as it is a more gentle variation. In my opinion, it is helpful to practice at least one kind of backbend daily because this movement of spine extension is not really part of our daily life. This way, we create and maintain the balance for the spine flexibility and mobility.
In my opinion, focusing on developing a strong core is essential. Navasana (as well as Kumbhakasana/plank) strengthens the core, helps us develop/maintain correct body posture, opens the chest and stimulates digestion. My main focus for this asana is in the benefits of the subtle body, activating Manipura (the solar plexus chakra). This is the energy centre of strength, power, ambition and motivation. Embodying these qualities will boost confidence and self-belief (not to be confused for arrogance) and also becoming more mentally focused.
This is a beautiful asana that can be practiced at any time of the day, especially in the evening. The photo shows a supported variation, however another way you can practice this is by having your legs up the wall. Unlike most of the other inversions (Sarvangasana as an exception as well) Viparita Karani stimulates Ida nadi, so it is calming for the mind and cooling for the body. It is great for blood circulation and prana flow in the legs. It can help relieve lower back discomfort or pain also. This asana can be held up to 5 minutes when done at the wall.
Karma yoga is one of the four paths of yoga and it is described as the path of action. The word karma means action and it is practiced by being of service. Sometimes it can be misunderstood that karma yoga is only practiced as a volunteer, renouncing to getting anything back in return. But this is not necessarily true, although the highest stage of this path is indeed through selfless action. There are many ways we can integrate this in our daily life and we can do so with ease so long as our intention is pure. As we continue to be of service and doing it from a place of being in action for the good of other rather than just for ourselves, both the understanding and application of selfless action can follow. In this instance, the philosophy teaches us that when we do anything from a place of being of use for the greater good and not for the “I” we can become free of suffering and worry.
Here are 4 ways to practice Karma Yoga in daily life:
THROUGH YOUR WORK
We all have a duty in our lifetime to be of service and most of us already are. Through our work/jobs we are contributing to the world. This is a responsibility all of us take on when coming into the physical world. This is the first stage or step on the karma yoga path. When we work, we also bring something useful to the world and whatever this is, it’s needed. The most important aspect to take in consideration however is your intention behind what you do. Although we need to earn money so we can have at least our basic needs met, if the intention is greater than just for the “I” or “me” then this can later on become a higher form of karma yoga practice. If we do our work with the mindset of “What’s in it for me” then we can fall in the trap of desire and ego, which is a continuous cycle of desire and possibly greed. Do your work with enthusiasm and being of use for whatever it is that you are doing. Focus on the idea of “What good does what I do bring for others, the environment etc” Then even your attitude to your work may become more joyful.
BEING THERE FOR SOMEBODY IN NEED
Being there for somebody in need is a beautiful way to practice karma yoga. Giving your time, energy and space to somebody, is also an act of good deed. It may not bring much to you, but to the other person it can be exactly what they needed. In this sense, when we provide action for the basis of another’s needs, then we do not consider a need for our reward. We do it because it brings good and because we have the ability to do so.
We know the saying “sharing is caring” and this is (in my opinion) one of the most important ways we can connect with others in this physical life. Giving without the need to receive something back is a beautiful way to integrate the meaning of karma yoga. But always consider the intention behind it. Give not to feel an ego boost about how kind you are, but do so because it is exactly what the other needs and you can facilitate that. And this is a great act of service. You can share a meal you made with your neighbour, give a book you have to somebody you know would love to read it, give clothing you no longer wear to somebody you know would make use of it, it can be anything. When we give we come from a place of abundance, and not lack. And this can bring us to the realisation of how much we can be grateful for.
THROUGH LOOKING AFTER NATURE AND ALL ITS CREATURES
Caring for our environment, the nature & all the creatures helps to tame our ego and make us realise that this is our home and everything part of it has the same right to be in it. All the animals, the little bugs, the birds, plants, trees etc have a right to be on this planet just as we do. We must not give ourselves higher importance just because we are human beings. After all, according to the yoga philosophy, we all share the same essence but in different form and level. So feeding a stray animal for example might not bring you anything, but to that little living creature you have added good in their life or even saved its life. The same goes for the nature. We are just a small form of it dressed in skin and bones, with a mind, an intellect and ego. Be conscious of how you treat nature. Clean up a piece of land, let the flowers be in their blooms and admire them without needing to pick them. Learn to see all there is with a sense of connection and without differentiation.
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