Indian Yoga Poses
Taking Your Practice into the World
While we’ve focused on the ways yoga can help you develop positive habits for a calm mind, healthy body, and joyful spirit, one of the bigger benefits of yoga is how it can affect the world at large. There’s that saying, “You can’t really find love until you learn to love yourself.” The same is true with yoga. By understanding your own body, mind, and emotions along with your needs, desires, shortcomings, accomplishments, strengths, and weaknesses, you’ll start understanding those around you. Being able to connect with others and the world at a deeper level is one of the greatest gifts of yoga.
In many yoga practices, the teacher will invoke the students to engage in a round of chanting Om . Om is believed to be the sound of the universe, the unifier of all things. No matter what we look like, what we do, how much money we make, or our struggles, Om is the frequency with which we all vibrate. When we understand that we’re no different from anyone around us, we become a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Seva is a yogic term that means “selfless service,” and is integral to every traditional path of
yoga. This concept is about serving and giving to others not because we have more, but because we are all one. Although most people think yoga is a pacifist path, it’s actually a path of peaceful action. As we fight for our own right to health, happiness, and harmony, we show up to fight for the equal rights of all.
Here are five simple ways to practice yoga off the mat and experience your connection to all:
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1 Practice ahimsa, or nonviolence, with every thought, word, deed, and action. This is a way to become conscious of how we may inadvertently participate in destructive dynamics. By becoming aware of negative thinking and speech toward others (including gossip), the products we use, and what we consume, we can contribute to lessening the suffering of others. You can do this in small ways every day.
2 Be present while you’re out in the world (meaning, spend less time on your phone!). This will help you connect to others. Make a conscious choice to make eye contact and smile, or even say “Hello.” Just looking at the sky, the trees, the earth beneath your feet becomes a walking meditation. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Walk as if with each step, your feet are kissing the earth.”
3 Choose a specific cause as part of Karma Yoga, the yoga of self-transcendent action. There are so many causes to contribute time or money to. All that matters is that you choose one and give selflessly from the heart. In the end, you’ll receive so much from giving!
4 Living a simple life that has the least negative impact on our planet is living yoga. Learn to discern between want and need. Do you really need the newest iPhone or jeans? Buying recycled clothes and products is a great way to reduce waste. Donate everything you don’t need to charities. Conserve water, turn off lights, and unplug appliances. Buy local food and support small businesses. These are all practices of being one with others for the benefit of all.
5 Step outside your small social circle and neighborhood. Meet people from different cultures, classes, and religions. Engage in the world in a bigger way, and broaden your perspective to deepen your life experience.
The beautiful Indian greeting, “Namaste,” which I say at the end of every practice, means “The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you.” It’s the recognition that we all share the experience of being human as well as divine. When we can connect to that, we are practicing yoga, and that is the greatest gift of all.