Yoga has inspired countless people on a physical level as well as a spiritual one. The framework offered by yoga has given people guidance on leading a more ethical, grounded, and mindful life; for themselves and the world around them.
However, embarking on the journey to understand this Vedic tradition and to practice this ancient and intricate art may be overwhelming for beginners.
Yoga’s teachings divide into different schools that offer further spiritual liberation and self-realization paths, also called moksha.
- Raja yoga focuses on mind and body control.
- Bhakti yoga is related to the worship of the divine.
- Jnana yoga is focused on studying ancient scriptures
- Karma yoga is the path of action.
But what does the “path of action” mean? This definition may seem puzzling for those who are new to it. Nevertheless, this yoga path actually has a fascinating rationale with captivating beliefs and recommendations. This article will dive deep into what karma yoga is and provide you an overview of this vibrant tradition.
What Is Karma Yoga?
The word “karma” is derived from “kri”; the Sanskrit term for “action” or “doing.” According to Hindu and Buddhist traditions, karma refers to the sum of a person’s deeds in past, present, and future states of existence.
However, when it comes to yoga, karma refers to the path of action. It also stands for selfless service towards others. Karma yoga is, therefore, the yoga of work, of action, and service.
Karma yoga is considered one of the most practical and effective means to develop your spiritual self. The karma yoga path is meant to be oriented by work, offered spiritually to your personal god. It is also a path in which an individual is led to salvation through selfless acts; the ultimate goal reached when the individual achieves self-realization.
Principles of Karma Yoga
Karma yoga is essentially about kindness and compassion and how embodying these feelings can purify your heart. Being on a selfless path can help you step away from your ego and step closer to enlightenment.
Karma yoga has various guiding principles to help you stay on the right path. Have a look at these principles to start your karmic journey to self-realization the right way.
- Serve others
Serving others and doing things for a higher purpose is the hallmark of karma yoga. Realize that the universe envelops everything and everyone as a whole and that we are all bound by the same energy; this will help you remember how meaningful it is to embody kindness.
It’s crucial to perform selfless acts enthusiastically and passionately. It’s equally important to act humbly, renouncing vanity and pride.
- Have pure thoughts
Having a clear mind is considered an important part of having the right attitude towards life in general, especially in the yoga tradition. To practice karma yoga, you should foster pure, loving, and caring thoughts and feelings towards the people in your close circle as well as beyond it.
Avoiding negative thoughts and embracing positive qualities instead takes you closer to self-realization in the path of karma yoga.
- Have pure motives
This is fundamental, especially if the service you are performing is for others. This means you must do your best to avoid thinking of personal gain and the benefits an action may give you. Instead of thinking about reaping any rewards, you should focus on performing the service or action to the best of your ability. This principle highlights the importance of being selfless for karma yoga.
- Relinquish the results
Not only should you avoid thinking of the benefits an action may bring you, but you should also do your best to avoid thinking about the results actions you perform may have altogether.
This highlights the importance of the action itself and how you perform it rather than its outcome. Focus on your actions without attachments to avoid stress, competitiveness, as well as selfishness.
- Be focused on your Dharma
This principle refers to knowing your Dharma, or “duty” in life and living by it. To achieve self-realization, you must perform your Dharma with passion and enthusiasm. This principle is all about being positive and working hard to reach your goal while remaining selfless and doing services for others. Embody your Dharma with determination.
- Embrace discipline
Discipline is paramount because it allows you to hone in on your focus to achieve your goals and do your duties. Discipline enables you to learn from your actions and tasks. It also allows you to apply what you’ve learned to other tasks and reach self-realization.
- Give your best
To live the karma yoga way, you need to strive for the best and work hard to get there. To do this, use your qualities and incorporate them into your activities. Exceed yourself: try to do better every time. This principle is about being driven and focused on self-improvement.
How to Practice Karma Yoga?
However, aside from the mentality you must acquire to practice karma yoga, many things can help you purify your heart. By doing so, you can practice karma yoga in your everyday life. This practice is the exercise of selfless service and compassion to step outside of your ego towards enlightenment, seeking the greater good.
Whether it’s giving a helping hand to a person in need or taking part in humanitarian action, there are endless ways to embrace karma yoga in your life.
Make sure your karmic commitment is regular; try to make a weekly engagement of selfless deeds. It can be with a charity group, an organization, or even a small group of friends!
The main focus is to make sure your engagement comes from a selfless place in your heart, from the desire to give to those in need and to share love. A way to help you harness these feelings into your actions is to remind yourself of any purpose you may have or to get to know the people you are servicing. Learn from them and create connections with them.
Why Yoga Is Good for Your Health
Yoga can enhance your personality – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It can help you gain confidence, improve your health, as well as acquire a higher perspective. We’ve broken down the spiritual aspect of yoga in the previous sections. Now, let’s address the physical and health benefits.
First of all, in the practice of yoga, you learn how to breathe with focus. This is enabled by the better postures within yoga and the teachings regarding how to breathe consciously. Mindful breathing allows you to influence your nervous system, which is connected to your hormone and immune system. Breathing with focus will lead to positive outcomes in all these systems.
Yoga is widely known for having positive effects on people’s mental health. It can significantly help people that are unbalanced or dealing with stress. In its practice to bring you to the moment and empty your mind, yoga can help many people reduce anxiety and regain a feeling of control of their lives. Yoga also fosters calm thoughts and creates more stress-free space in your mind.
The Benefits of Conscious Moving
Yoga requires you to move, which is a great asset today. In a world where people are increasingly becoming sedentary, yoga pushes us to exercise, helps people improve their posture, and alleviates their stress and tension.
The added benefit that yoga has over other forms of exercise, such as running or going to the gym, is that although both include movement, yoga requires you to move consciously.
This type of movement is extremely valuable: it creates more space and relaxation in the body and gives your breathing more space. It also allows you to become stronger and more flexible. These factors are crucial for preventing injuries, both for those who exercise every day and those who do not consider themselves to be in great physical shape.
Moving consciously also allows your body to function properly. Doing a proper practice of yoga will facilitate the removal of waste products in your body. It will also improve the distribution of blood flow in your body and encourage the release of tension from your organs and muscles. It also affects the distribution of nutrients and oxygen in your cells.
Ancient cultures have developed customs, traditions, and practices in accordance with their worldviews, religions, and more. Despite the fast-paced, capitalistic lifestyle that has enveloped our daily lives worldwide, the legacy of these practices lives on. Not only are the traditions behind yoga maintained in India today, but they’ve also spread around the globe.
The sacred text of Hindu, the Bhagavad Gita, discusses karma yoga in great detail. All in all, the teachings of this book regarding how to practice karma yoga are quite clear. It all revolves around developing a strong mentality that will allow you to purify your heart, practice selflessness and kindness, and reach self-realization.