Some of you may know that I spent last week in service to my mother. She had very successful outpatient surgery to repair a fractured vertebra. What I loved about last week (besides being there for my mother) was the deepening of my personal yoga practice–in particular, my practice OFF the mat.
In the Western world, yoga has come to be defined as a physical practice, a series of poses or postures we perform in a class, on a sticky mat. But, yoga is so much more than that! In the world of Yoga, there are five main paths. Asana, the physical practice of postures, falls under Hatha Yoga (the way of union). Raja Yoga (the science of physical and mental control) and Hatha Yoga can be combined. Swami Rama, a great twentieth century yogi, said this about Raja Yoga: “Hatha Yoga without meditation is blind, and meditation without Hatha Yoga is lame. Unless they are united, they will reach nowhere. The combination of the two is called Raja Yoga.” Jnana Yoga (the yoga of knowledge or wisdom), Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion or divine love), and Karma Yoga (the yoga of action) round it out.
Karma Yoga, in a sense, is the yoga of self-less service, action out in the world, for others. This is what I was practicing in a very real-time way with my mother. We can practice this in small or big ways. What ever it is you have to do, do your best. Listen, deeply, to another human being. Practice the Golden Rule, and treat others as you would wish to be treated. Where in your life might you bring more yoga of action?