Yoga literally means union, to come together and make whole. Though yoga classes are a sacred container, the objective is to live your practice in all aspects of your life. This concept is called karma yoga, which is also known as discipline in action. Life itself becomes the practice and the distinct aspects of this practice begin to integrate as a unified whole. This is a personal pursuit that also recognises that every person in our lives is also a part of our greater selves and this union is how we cultivate the inspiration and compassion necessary to make meaningful changes in the world. Below are some examples of how to take your practice to a whole new level.
Yoga is a tool for change. Rooted in compassion and connection, we are called to awaken to suffering and take action in response, creating a peaceful, just, and connected global community.
– Suzanne Sterling
How Will You Take Your Yoga Off the Mat and Into the World?
Suzanne Sterling, Hala Khouri, and Seane Corn are the founders of Off the Mat Into the World (OTM) and this is the question that has inspired their work internationally since 2007. Dedicated to bridging yoga and activism by using the tools of yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry OTM inspires leaders to create conscious, sustainable change in the world. If union is the goal of yoga then solidarity, equality, justice and freedom for all is crucial for personal and collective liberation.
Yoga can be a powerful path of personal transformation and accountability. At its root, the word means ‘union’ – of mind, body and spirit. The practice of yoga is one that asks us to know ourselves and engage in a process of self-reflection and self-awareness every time we step on the mat. Yoga teaches us that it is by going through our pain and resistance that we can access our hope and faith. To bypass our pain is not only ineffective but dangerous.
– Off the Mat Into the World
On the mat you stretch your muscles, in community you stretch to meet people in the middle. Holding a pose can be uncomfortable – so you teach yourself to breathe into it. Likewise, putting yourself out there to make change in the world around you can feel uneasy at first – so you return to your breath. Pushing too hard never works well for your body and the same is true in social situations. There are no “end results” to focus on, instead you embark on this path for the sake of the journey. The work itself is the reward.
To the work you own the right but not to the results thereof.
– First Tenant of Karma Yoga
The idea of selfless service, or seva is considered to be one of the most direct paths to spiritual evolution. In recognising your union with others and the environment around you, you feel compelled to nurture, heal, and exalt everything around you. This often awakens a sense of civic duty, or social activism, and the act of lifting others up becomes integral in liberating one’s self. Seeking to find beauty in others, in one’s self, and even in the shadow helps to release us from judgment and bathe us in compassion. This is a revolutionary way to bring about change in the world without exerting force, from the inside out. This is also known as following one’s dharma.
Without differences and problems there are no solutions. This practice of karma yoga involves fearless introspection within one’s self and their greater community. The tools to navigate the shadow are what liberates us to access creativity in the face of adversity. You may enjoy the sacred space to escape it all with relaxing music, fine essential oil scents in your favourite yoga class, but remember this is just practice for the real world… and the world needs you! So stay flexible in your body, in your mind, breathe deep and exhale to the prospect of endless possibility for growth and transformation.
Having a Voice
The body opens up when you take time to listen to it, and give it your presence. The same is true for your friends, many of whom desire to find their voice and be heard just as much as you do. In a yoga class you set a specific intention by putting on loose-fitting clothes, rolling your mat out and quieting your mind. There is no rule in the universe that says that you can’t do this in every aspect of your life. Quieting yourself, your mind gives voice to so many things that are waiting to emerge in your life. This state of openness and emptiness is often felt after an hour of yoga, yet with intention you can bring this state of mind to the world around you.
None of us can do it alone and that’s why we love to surround ourselves with others who are actively engaged in this sacred work. This doesn’t mean we need to alienate those who don’t live by these same values. A spirit of inclusivity, openness, acceptance, non-judgment combined with exemplifying these ideals through our actions creates a contagious environment and strengthens the community. Your vibe is your tribe…
This phenomena is exemplified when a passive object responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness without being touched physically. The physical is influenced by the non-physical, by adjusting your own vibration you will shift the vibration of those around you. Now if you apply this idea to social action you will see that it is much more effective than the traditional angry protestor. That is not to say that there isn’t a place for anger, but when it is transmuted into compassionate action division falls away and union prevails. Yoga is union, so every effort to find commonality, and connection will create a space for opening, for transformation. Impact is amplified when we create sympathetic resonance with ourselves, with each other, and with our environment.
Yoga teaches you that everything that happens to you in this life happens perfectly and synergistically in order for the soul to transform and understand this level of God-love. Everyone has karma to burn, lessons to learn, and each one of you will walk some challenging and funky paths at times, but these moments will also be the divine catalysts providing great insight, healing and wisdom.
– Seane Corn
We go to class to practice and learn so that we can apply this wisdom in our lives beyond the yoga studio. This practice in wholeness should include every aspect of our lives and in this way we become a unifying force that integrates and organises the chaotic energies around us. We are here on Earth at a time when this understanding and way of life is needed so we can surf the waves of immense global changes. It is truly an exciting time for each of us and our yoga practice on and off the mat is a key tool to evolving with an open heart full of grace. Let life be your practice!