Karma Yoga and the Art of Giving Back

  • By Yoga Studio Calgary
  • 11 Nov, 2016

written by Michael J Formica MS, MA, EdM

yoga
What do you give back?

Karma Yoga is the practice of giving back to the communities of which you are a part. In its purest form - seva, or selfless service - it is an act of kindness and   generosity   that neither demands, nor expects, reciprocation. During this time of great social, economic and environmental need, what do you give back?

In thinking about an acquaintance of mine the other day, I was struck by the thought that she is a pure   consumer . She is a woman of means who has neither earned her money for herself, nor inherited it. She does not work, she does not volunteer, and she participates in the groups and communities of which she is a part only to draw from them, never giving back. She doesn't even recycle. This little realization led me to consider this very notion of giving back, which then brought to mind the   memory   of my father.

My father was a great, if unwitting, Karma Yogi. His motto, inscribed on the plaque he received upon his   retirement   as a university professor, was "Service before self." He imparted that lesson, and many others, to his students, his colleagues, as well as various charges throughout his life.

Several of his lessons made a lasting impression - there was the "dignity speech", the "put it back where you found it" rule, the notion of "respect authority, but don't be afraid to question it" and the idea of "buy quality once", just to name a few. None, however, was as salient, or as lasting, as "service before self". This was because he didn't just talk about it, he lived it. Now, before you think I am going to wander off into some sentimental rumination about my father, read on, as his ethic is only a foil.

The Law of Karma, in its simplest interpretation, suggests that "you get what you give" (see also   1 ,   2 ). One of the great vulnerabilities of humanity has always been the failure to recognize that we live in a reciprocal   environment . But we don't give and take; often, we just take.

The consequences of this tactic have become roundly evident in recent years, both environmentally and economically. We have created a series of imbalances through globally imbalanced action, and now we are experiencing a correction; again, both environmental and economic.
Now, we might interject ourselves into that correction, and maybe even impose ourselves upon it. But we can't conquer it, control it or bend it to our will because we are part of the whole system. The eye cannot see itself.

Acknowledging the reciprocity of our world and, indeed, our very existence, leads us directly to this idea of giving back. No, we may not get what we give, but, in giving, we keep the whole system running.

So, make the effort. Throw your loose change into the can for homeless   pets   the next time that you buy dog food; stay an extra 10 minutes with that student struggling with quadratic equations; buy your shoes at Tom's (who gives away one pair of shoes to a needy kid every time they sell a pair); get your produce from local farmers; be a Girl Scout Cookie Mom; eat vegan; recycle; volunteer one Saturday a month to Habitat for Humanity; wash dishes in a soup kitchen once a week...

Do you feel that breeze on your face?...it's a butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world. So, give yourself - your   love , your talents, your light - to your community, and make the world a better place for all of us.

© 2009   Michael J. Formica , All Rights Reserved

Yoga Calgary Blog

By Yoga Studio Calgary 19 Jun, 2017
We all want to know that when we invest in anything, whether it be with our time, money, or efforts; that we will receive a payoff…..that is why we invest. An investment in a regular yoga practice will offer you the most valuable pay off, an enhanced state of living, a healthier you, a happy life.
By Yoga Studio Calgary 12 Jun, 2017
Restorative yoga postures along with yogic breath work can shift the ‘stress response’ of the sympathetic nervous system to the ‘relaxation response’ of the parasympathetic nervous system – creating the inner environment for healing.

Invoking the relaxation response is an acquired skill and is fundamental to healthy mind and body. .

When the body is fully supported it is then able to let go of deeply held tensions and stresses, releasing into deep relaxation. This allows for healing, replenishment, restoration and a return to homeostasis.

The passive nature of restorative yoga makes it available to practically anyone. However, even the most seasoned and skilled yogi and yogini will benefit from a regular restorative yoga practice. The balance of an active asana practice along with the stress reducing therapeutic or restorative practice, create the state of santosha (contentment) we desire from our personal practice.

Take your practice a step further by learning the art and skill of restorative yoga with Calgary’s most senior restorative yoga teacher, Trish Robbins at her 3 day workshop. Through practice, discussion and hands-on experience, learn the art and skill of practicing or teaching classical restorative postures. This training is suitable for yoga teachers, trainees and health care professionals. The skills learned in this training allow for a deeper, more effective personal practice and the skills to help others.

Trish is Co-Director of The Yoga Studio College Gold Yoga Therapist Certification Program and Calgary’s most senior restorative teacher trainer. Sign up early to avoid disappointment. Bring a notebook, a copy of Relax and Renew and your own mat.

www.theyogastudiocalgary.com/workshops
By Yoga Studio Calgary 05 Jun, 2017
Yoga isn’t all about showing up to class, rolling out your mat, and reaching for your toes. Yoga is so much more than. The amazing news is; if yoga is so much more, then we have so much more to gain and benefit from yoga. Here are 5 ways you can be yoga when you’re not just doing yoga.

  1. Start thinking about all the things you have already accomplished in your day, your year, your career….instead of thinking about all the things you still have to do. You’re running up a checklist in your mind already why not make it one that makes you feel good.
  2.  When you feel uneasy about something or you are pushing yourself further than before….pause….ask yourself; am I ok now? Will I pay for this later (either physical soreness or mentally over analyzing everything)?…..if you answer yes and then no then carrying on, friend, use your breath if you need it. If you answered no and then yes stop and come back to honouring your soul. 
  3.  Breathe……Breathe……Breathe……I know you have heard it before. Maybe even many many times. Here it is one more time….nothing is more powerful at reducing the stress hormones surging through your body during tense times than your very own breath. 
  4. Realize that every choice you make matters. This isn’t to overwhelm you, but simply show you how easy it is to create the life you want to live. You are in control of your thoughts and choices. Therefore you are in control of creating your life. 
  5. As often as you can keep your mouth ever so slightly open. This reduces subvocalization, the very subtle jaw movements that are created during mental chatter, therefore reducing that mental chatter. 

Try these out and see how you begin to feel. Yoga is for everyday. Yoga is for life. www.theyogastudiocalgary.com
By Yoga Studio Calgary 29 May, 2017
Practicing daily affirmations is a very powerful way to transform your self talk from negative/sadness/worry/ fear to positive/happiness/excitement/contentment. It is a tool you already have. What is an affirmation? It is anything you think or say. The content of these thoughts and talk have the precious ability to change our lives. They allow us to feel good about ourselves, overcome adversity, troubles, even addictions of all kinds. Here are 15 daily affirmations;

1) I deserve love
2) It is safe for me to share my thoughts
3) I honour who I am
4) I am grateful for my entire life and all that it is
5) I accept myself exactly how I am
6) I appreciate my body
7) Love is always around me
8) Old and negative thoughts no longer serve me
9) I surrender to the flow of life
10) Now is the time to let go and trust
11) I am worthy of love
12) I have unlimited potential
13) I release fear and worry
14) Only positive rests in my body
15) I give love always

Speak these simple, yet powerful words to yourself as often as you can. You will then begin to notice how strong you will begin to feel.

Join Val Petrich this weekend for her Yoga for Addictions Workshop to learn how yoga can compliment a daily affirmation practice. This workshop is recommended for anyone wanting to learn a willful, sustained practice to help release tension associated with addictions. www.theyogastudiocalgary.com/workshops1


By Yoga Studio Calgary 22 May, 2017
Stop thinking. Stop talking. Stop worrying…..start consciously breathing, and then see how fast your life changes. Our breath is the single most accessible and powerful source for stress and anxiety reduction, yet is so often gets ignored. Breath (prana) is our link between the body and mind. Through simple breathing techniques we can develop a relationship and find balance between these two systems facilitating health and well-being
By Yoga Studio Calgary 15 May, 2017
Yoga asana (the poses) that we practice in class or on our own, are simply the surface of the oh so powerful world of yoga. It is the greatest way to walk through the door and into the amazing world of being yoga and not just doing yoga. As Sri T Krishnamacharya says - “ Yoga is the process of replacing old patterns with new  and more appropriate patterns. ” Our lives are ever evolving and so shall our yogic lifestyle. Practice on fellow yogis! Practice on and off the mat, come home to yourself.

Here are some simple tips on how to bring the other limbs of yoga into your daily life.

We begin by learning about our external ethics (Yamas). It is simply knowing and acting on what’s right and what’s wrong.
  1. Ahimsa - Replace hurt or violence (to others and yourself) with compassion. It takes courage - a lot of it - to look deep enough to see the quiet ways in which it is better to use compassion. 
  2. Satya - Would your soul rather be real or appear perfect? Know your truth and live it. It may not feel safe at first, however you will quickly come to know it feels real. Be your unique self. 
  3. Asteya - Live a life of integrity. Our highest level of self cannot shine through if we steal our light from others or other places. 1 May 7, 2017 
  4. Brahmacharya - Ask yourself, what are you over indulging in? Too much is simply too much. Clear the clutter, release the junk, soften the density of blocking energies within you.
  5. Aparigraha - Realize nothing is permanent and clinging onto things as if they were possessions will only lead to fear, worry and a sense of scarcity. Remember expectations will only create limitations. 

Moving onto the Niyamas now, we focus on our internal ethics, the foundation of stepping into our brightest light.
  1. Saucha - purify your thoughts, your intentions, your self talk. The best form of a cleanse! 
  2. Santosha - Feel and know immense gratitude for all that you already have and all that you have created. Love your life wherever you may be. 
  3. Tapas - Hang in there! remind yourself how strong and courageous you really are as you walk through the fire, or have those days of needing to dig deep. 
  4. Svadhaya - What do you need to either release or bring into your life so you can truly know you? Fall in love with learning about YOU!
  5.  Ishvara Pranidhana - Surrender! Surrender! Surrender! Trust the flow of your life. Instead of trying to control, begin to simply pay attention. 


The remaining limbs or gifts we can gain from in a daily yoga life are;
Asana - our physical practice, what we know as yoga on the mat.
Pranayama - A practice of mindful breathing.
Pratyahara - looking inward by withdrawing from outside influences.
Dharana - Cultivating concentration, focusing your thoughts. Dhyana - A practice of mediation, as familiar to many as an asana practice. Samadhi - Sweet sweet bliss! Spiritual illumination and a sense of oneness with all.

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