Karma yoga has nothing to do with yoga postures or yoga breathing. It has everything to do with being helpful to others. Think of people who volunteer their time and are of service to others — they are karma yogis. And when they’re in the act of volunteering they’re doing karma yoga.
Sometimes referred to as the “eternal duties of human beings,” offering your version of karma yoga is based on the teachings of the ancient yoga texts and the Bhagavad Gita. When you practice karma yoga — which you can do every day in many ways — you seek selfless actions that often come without reward for your good deeds.
Look around you and see that karma yoga is everywhere…
How to Practice Karma Yoga
Karma yoga isn’t just about seeking accolades for your actions. It’s also about not being attached to what you’re doing in any way. Again, you seek to perform good deeds for their own sake. This means that you’re not doing good deeds for emotional fulfillment, praise from others or even for any type of reward or financial gain.
Karma yoga also requires some emotional detachment from your good deeds so you don’t become discouraged when a good deed falls flat. When properly practiced, karma yoga involves neither bragging and patting yourself on the back nor fretting and self-flagellation. You do the good deed and that’s the end of it. No room for joy, frustration, pride or anger.
How to Get Started, Painlessly
You might not know where to even get started with karma yoga, but it’s best to start somewhere small and very close to home. The Chopra Center recommends beginning with the smallest acts of service around your house. Doing your best at a mundane task, such as doing the dishes or folding the laundry, for example, can get you started on a more karmic path.
Other small steps that inspire the meaning of karma yoga include consciously smiling when you encounter a stranger, or being generous and charitable with your precious time and attention to others.
Karma yoga is about doing everything in this spirit. As you commit deliberate acts of kindness, you want them to be both small (like doing a better job on household chores) and weightier acts of community service, like feeding the homeless or teaching complimentary yoga classes to seniors or disadvantaged youth.
To kickstart these bigger tasks, pick something you’re not especially passionate about. (This can help you to avoid getting too attached to the good deeds that you’re doing.) Whether you win, lose, or draw, you’ll be able to maintain an emotional distance from your acts of service, which can be the hardest part.
What’s the Point of Good Karma?
You’re doing all these good works, but you’re not supposed to feel anything about them. So what’s the point?
The point, according to the Vedanta Society of Southern California, is to not hoard all of this good karma for yourself, but rather to spread it around into the world you inhabit. You’re not trying to rid yourself of bad karma. Rather, you’re trying to share your good karma with everyone whom you encounter.
You are involved already in karma yoga when you practice good deeds that reach far beyond the yoga studio with ongoing community service and charitable works. Are you ready to try a little karma yoga today?