“Service is the first step along the spiritual path.” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba
To be able to practice and teach yoga, a sense of seva should be cultivated.
We realize that everything in our world is sacred as we shift our consciousness from “what’s in it for me?” to “how can I be of service?”. From 2013 onwards, conservation has been underway to preserve the natural beauty of Ostional. Participants of the yoga teacher training program have planted trees and joined forces to fight deforestation and protect the environment of the howler monkey and threatened jaguar. Assisting with the local nursery for sea turtles, monitoring their movement, but overall protecting the natural habitat of these endangered animals. The students of yoga teacher training have worked and lived in the community, learning the ways of the local people. In the Sea projects they have collaborated with the local people to clean the mangroves and beaches and teach the children to respect the planet earth.
God is Everywhere
In every sea turtle, monkey, jaguar and tree, God, The Universal Force, The Divine or whatever you wish to call it is there. With every animal and child we help, and every human we meet, we have a close connection with God. Seeing our earth as a sacred place, we are committing ourselves to seva, by bringing our yoga practices into our daily lives, making a connection of service through God in all things.
We Pursue God Through Yoga, But Seva is Where We Start.
You have reached the karma cycle – Welcome!
Karma, in Indian philosophy, is defined as the action and its results. It dictates the outwardly infinite cause and effect sequence of reawakening which the yogi attempts to escape. The seeker of a spiritual life should serve according to his/hers dharma without expectations of any rewards. There are no personal gains in this path of unifying one’s heart and soul.
When we arrive on the planet through birth we learn to calculate personal winnings in all things. You might automatically consider just withdrawing, perhaps delaying, or not acting at all, refusing to join in with the game, and break loose. Sadly, for those enthusiastic yoga teachers, ‘doing’ or ‘action’ is unavoidable. By even choosing not to do something, you are undertaking an action. So, what are we left with? Should we just give in to the unrelenting cycle of action-reaction? No! There is a solution offered by the Bhagavad Gita – the yoga of action, altering our affliction into a means of its existence. We call the yoga of action SEVA, selfless service. To serve without any expectations of return is yoga.
“Our Mission Statement to share the love of the Ashtanga Yoga practice ultimately boils down to bringing yoga off the mats out into the world to aid in preserving, growing and protecting our planet earth and its inhabitants.” – Ashtanga Yoga Nicaragua
The Meaning of Karma – Intention
Krishna says that the definition of karma is that the action is the meaning or purpose. Although the inevitability of ‘doing’ is unavoidable, but we can govern our actions or the way we approach them.
Bhagavad Gita says, “Those who are motivated only by the desire for the fruits of their action are miserable,” Krishna advises that if we give no consideration to the results of our actions, karma will pass us by. After all, yoga is, “perfect awareness of the mind,” therefore, “to perform work in this world…without attachments, and alike in success and defeat,” making each action we take a practice of yoga.
This is much easier said than done in yoga practice, as in a great number of things. Learning to accept the consequences of our actions is a habit we need to learn and encourage. Ashtanga yoga provides the practitioner the chance to try out, grow and evolve within the physical practice of the yoga of action.
Daily Practice: Lessons
The practice of Ashtanga yoga asana is a unique yet familiar set of posture sequences. It is a prescribed set of sequences, as opposed to a chosen one, a discipline of actions which the student performs daily. There is an implied submission to the adherence of this practice, and between the tradition and the practitioner. There is a tacit contract, where the practitioner willingly gives up their right of choice and gives willingly to the very cultivation of karma yoga..
However, mindset remains the key. Although practicing can assist in learning surrender, it may also have the opposite effect. Practicing and moving through the sequence of postures daily with an attainment or performance mindset is like taking a step backward from the yoga of action. It is never easy, for even the most experienced students can not last long without failing from the absence of detachment. With detachment the body will certainly undergo changes through lifelong practice, and it will fluctuate. Difficulties will occur, postures will come and go, where perhaps they did not before, but serenity will substitute discomfort. Each day on your mat will be different. Remaining attached to just one result or goal is an exercise in pointlessness.
Physical practice will become one of acceptance. When it comes to “success and defeat,” it does not matter how many postures manifest on any given day, the practitioner will always offer the action with total commitment. Practice and its ever-changing nature mean you must try disconnection from the result of your actions or suffer as Krishna cautions, everlasting frustrations. Practice to gain results and to suffer. Practice because you can practice, and gain unexpected freedom.
Off the Mat: Karma Yoga
All the time you spend on the mat is referred to as practice for a particular reason. There is no point in practicing hard for two hours each morning if you are not going to convey it into your daily life. A great lesson to learn how to enjoy the practice, as well as a result, is to learn to ride the waves, without attachment. Little by little, the mental habits we cultivate with our daily physical practice of Ashtanga, will flow down into our everyday actions. We can invest ourselves in each moment without having to see it as a ‘means to an end’ for something else. We can learn to focus on the act itself, and not just the end game. In this approach, there is a mindfulness which will enrich your life, eliminating the endless frustrations and constant worries of having to strive for the next big goal on the list continually, but replacing the journey in between with gratefulness.
“With the practice of asana, you will be able to learn yoga of action. With yoga of action, all that we do is an opportunity for us to practice. With everything as an opportunity to practice, we are living a life in yoga.”
Seeking God Through Yoga
Within or without, God with any name or in any form. It does not matter what name or face you give to God, which scriptures or books you find him in, or if you believe in God at all. Yoga philosophy asks just this one thing: that the student identifies that in our universe, there is a creative, sustaining force which connects us and is far greater than us.
God is all around us, if only we just look around. A yoga practitioner believes that no matter if they are animate or inanimate, animals, vegetables, minerals, our universe contains energy and life.
Surrendering To The Lord
Time and again Patanjali communicates with us about the practice of ishvarapranidhana, surrendering to the Lord, the energy of the universe. In fact, in the Sadhana Pada, Patanjali suggests that the practice of surrendering can lead a person to samadhi. However, surrendering yourself to an unknown power, an amorphous, may not be that simple. Learning this type of surrender, firstly we need to find something that is more tangible, something within our human realm. Something that offers this is Seva.
‘God is in everything,’ and if that is right, then by serving others, we serve God. Inside every one of us resides Ishvara, it is in the people we meet, and the animals we live with on earth. It is in the wonders of nature like the trees, water, and sky. Sending our energy out into the world, and by offering our time to do this, without expecting anything back, we are surrendering to God.
“…May there be goodness for those who know the earth to be sacred…” -The Mangala Mantra
This is the mantra which we chant after we have concluded our Ashtanga yoga practice. We are asking for peace and goodness for our world and all the creatures within it. It is a powerful prayer imparted with the theme of God is in all things. We ask for “all worlds to be happy,” . The yoga becomes an act of service, through this simple offering. It is good to release all of our bottled-up energy and intentions on the mat, and surrender it for the good of our world, it creates a mindset of surrender. Stepping off the mat, and going about our daily lives, it is a reminder that we should continue our habit of service in all our interactions.