Yoga and service to others are two popular activities, but most people don’t think about how much they have in common. Both activities enrich your life, connect you to the community, help you meet new people, and facilitate learning new ideas that can positively impact your world view. It’s natural to combine the two, helping you and your communities grow stronger together.
Giving back isn’t just about what others receive. Studies have shown that philanthropy and service light up the brain’s pleasure centers. Joy naturally arises when you help another person. As humans, connection is vital and the simplest way to make that connection is to serve.
When you serve others, you let go of your own agenda for a while, working toward a common goal that is bigger than yourself. In practice of Kundalini Yoga, this leads to “shuniya,” the elimination of ego-driven goals replaced by compassion, love, and a sense of belonging.
To enjoy the countless benefits of shuniya, bring more compassion into your yoga practice with these three tips.
1: Help others enjoy the benefits of yoga
There are plenty of individuals who have not had a chance to benefit from yoga. You will find that these are people who stand to benefit the most, including veterans, prisoners, and at-risk youth. Many of these individuals feel a sense of detachment from their communities or have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. Yoga can bring them a sense of peace.
Yoga shows people of all races, religions, and social backgrounds that there is an underlying equality among humans. When we are on our mat, we are all the same. Kundalini Yoga helps bring calm and connectiveness in a simple yet profound way. If you are a licensed teacher, use your gifts to volunteer at nonprofits and other community groups. If you aren’t a licensed teacher, consider inviting friends and family to join you in an in-person or virtual class. Yoga gift certificates given to loved ones or donated to organizations are another meaningful way to spread joy.
2: Bring Kundalini and karma yoga into your life
Karma yoga is one of the 22 forms of ancient yoga and is part of Kundalini Yoga. It is known as the yoga of egoless action. Karma yoga transforms ordinary action into an experience of the Divine. The goal is to act without ego, removing tension and expectation from your being. In fact, karma yoga is not considered ‘work’ as much as a joyful expression of gratitude and compassionate action.
You can transform your attitude by applying the mindfulness of karma yoga to your everyday activity. Whether it is caring for children or doing chores, it’s important to bring conscious intention to your every action and be fiercely present in the now. Focus on your breath and make your actions purposeful. These acts, however small, will enrich your own life and the lives of the people around you.
3: Support the world with seva
Seva means selfless service, beautiful work done from the heart without any thought of reward or gain. Seva takes many forms, from volunteering in community projects to silently cleaning a sacred space. It can even be as personal as listening to someone who is struggling, giving a friend support, or allowing your presence to help ease someone’s pain.
One of the more public ways to practice seva is through “langar,” the Sikh tradition of serving free meals to anyone who is hungry, regardless of religion, gender, economic status or ethnicity. Food is a need we all share. Preparing and sharing meals with no expectation of reward or recognition is a pure seva. The key is to focus on someone or something outside of yourself, providing a service that requires nothing in return, not even acknowledgment.
Through adopting these selfless practices, you’ll find a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment that can bring joy to all aspects of your life. Click here to read about the 3HO Luminaries, yoga practitioners who serve the world. For more information about incorporating compassion into your yoga practice, visit www.3ho.org and kundaliniresearchinstitute.org.