Sadhguru looks at the importance of the process of karma yoga, its role on the spiritual path, and how one can go about using action as a means to spiritual growth.
Question: What is the role of karma yoga in sadhana?
Sadhguru: It is not needed really. Yoga does not need karma. Yoga is to go beyond karma. Why karma yoga has been brought in is to bring about balance in a person. Whatever we call as our awareness, our love, our experience or our glimpses of our reality, if it has to be sustained, the path of non-doing is a very wonderful path, but it is very slippery. Extremely slippery. It is the simplest and the most difficult. It is not difficult but it is not at all easy, because it is simple – right now, here and now. But that here and now – how to get it? Whatever you do, it is not in your hands. It is never going to be in your hands. But your hands need something right now, you need to hold something. That is why the crutch of karma yoga.
Without the crutch, most people will not be able to walk. There are a few beings who can walk without the crutch from the first moment. They are very rare beings. Everyone else needs the crutch to manage your awareness. Without this, most people are incapable of remaining aware. So karma yoga is brought into your life to properly temper sadhana with the right kind of action.
Activity – liberating or entangling
Karma yoga has unfortunately been described as service, but it is not so. It is a way of undoing the impressions that you have gathered. If you can joyfully involve yourself in any activity, that is karma yoga. If you do it with great effort, only karma will come, noyoga will happen!
Generally it is through various activities that you perform that you get entangled and enmeshed with life. But if the activity becomes a process of liberation instead of entanglement, it is karma yoga. Whether it is work or walking on the street or talking to someone, the nature of the activity is not important. When you do something only because it is needed, where it does not mean anything to you but you are capable of involving yourself as if that is your life, it transforms you and action becomes liberating.
When we were building the Dhyanalinga, people thought, “This is it! He wants this to happen. Let us do it! Once this is done, we can relax.” They worked like their life depended on it. They went from house to house, raising funds and bringing the necessary support and made it happen. When it was done, before they said “Ooff…” I announced ten different projects. I will always keep it on because people need that kind of action. They need to do what is needed without worrying about their fulfillment and their likes and dislikes. Anyway we are doing something for our growth, so let us do something that is useful to everyone. Let us do sensible action.
There have been many masters who created action like this. When Gurdjieff started his centers in Europe, the European elite went to him. In the morning he would give them a shovel and a pickaxe and tell them, “Dig trenches.” In the hot sun, they stood and dug and dug. These were not people who are used to labor of any kind. By the time they had worked a few hours, they had blisters all over. He stood there and drove them on. By late evening, they were hungry but they worked and worked, digging trenches. Then he would look at the watch, “Okay, it is seven o‘clock. Looks like dinner time. All of you can close the trenches again before we go for dinner.” A whole day’s work!
Doing something that does not mean anything to you with total involvement is what breaks the karmic structure. Karma means action. If action has to become yoga, action should be liberating. If your activity has become a process of binding yourself, it is karma. So the question is not about how much activity you do. How you are performing the activity is what makes the difference. If you are crawling through your work, that is karma. If you are dancing through your work, that is karma yoga.
What if you can’t relax—even after lying in the corpse posture for ten minutes? Unwinding is easier said than done—especially when you’re hyped up on coffee, negative emotions, hectic schedules, looming exams.
Maybe you know this scenario: your body is settled in shavasana, but your mind is up and running—fighting traffic, or revising a fight you had with your husband (this time, you win). Vaguely, you visualize your breath sweeping from your head to your toes and up again, but mentally you’re miles away. At some point, you stop drifting and notice: your abdomen is locked, your hands are clenched in fists, and your shoulders are hiked up to your ears. What happened?
The problem is that you’re going through the motions with a hyperactive mind. As a result, you can’t give the relaxation process the attention it needs to work its magic. The key to success? Focus on the breath. According to the yogis, it’s the bridge between body and mind. Chances are, if you focus on breathing slower, deeper, and without pause, you’ll quiet your mental chatter and calm your nervous system. Then your mind and your muscles will surrender naturally.
Start over: Lie on your back in shavasana (the corpse posture) with a cushion under your neck. Place one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest. Before you have a chance to think, tune into the movements of your body as you breathe. Notice the feeling of your breath emptying your lungs as you exhale, and filling them as you inhale.
Before you have a chance to think, tune into the movements of your body as you breathe.
Next, check to see if your chest is moving. If so, relax your rib cage and focus on breathing solely with your abdomen. Let the inhalation and exhalation be approximately equal in length.
Gradually deepen the breath and slow it down: On your next exhalation, gently engage your abdominal muscles and push a little extra air out of the lungs. Then, let your abdomen rise slightly higher as you inhale.
(It might be helpful to count your in and out breaths in even ratios—starting, perhaps, with 3:3, then moving up to 6:6—whatever is within your comfortable capacity.) Focus on this exercise for several minutes.
Then begin to weave the breaths together, reducing and smoothing out the pause between inhalation and exhalation. Imagine the movement of a car on a Ferris wheel, and apply its cycle to your breath. As you inhale, visualize the car ascending. It slows and levels off at the top of the ride, and merges smoothly into the descent as you exhale. At the bottom there is another leveling off, and the car rises again, smoothly, in the next ascent. Work with this practice for a few more minutes. As you settle into deeper breathing, your thoughts will begin to fall away as you embrace the present moment with a sense of comfort, peace, and ease.
When you are ready to come out of shavasana, bring your revitalized breath (and nervous system) with you. Roll onto your left side and stay there longer than usual (don’t pop up, give yourself a head rush, and run blindly to your next destination). Take several of the same slow, deep, unpaused breaths here. Then sit up slowly and prepare to greet the world.
Author: SHANNON SEXTON
Source: Yoga International
Forget counting sheep. Ease your way into dreamland with this five-move yoga routine from Edward Vilga, creator of the DVD Yoga in Bed: 20 Asanas to Do in Pajamas. The moves will relax your body and mind, but the best part is that you can do them all in bed!
- Sit facing a wall (or your headboard) with your butt about 6 inches away from it.
- Lie back and extend your legs up the wall.
- If this is too intense a stretch for your hamstrings, slide your butt farther away from the wall.
- If it’s not enough, scoot closer.
- Let your arms rest by your sides, palms facing up, and breathe gently, feeling the stretch in the backs of your legs.
Winding Down Twist
- Sit cross-legged on the bed and exhale as you place your right hand on your left knee and left hand on the bed behind your tailbone.
- Gently twist your torso to the left.
- Allow your gaze to follow, looking over your left shoulder. Breathe deeply, then return to center and repeat on opposite side.
Nighttime Goddess Stretch
- Lie on your back with knees bent.
- Place the soles of your feet together, then let your knees fall open, forming a diamond shape with your legs.
- Rest your arms on the bed.
- If you feel any strain, elevate your legs by placing a pillow underneath each knee.
- Sit up comfortably on your heels.
- Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the bed in front of you.
- Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, extending your arms in front of you.
- Hold the pose and breathe.
- Lying on your back, hug knees in to chest.
- Cross your ankles and wrap both arms around your shins with clasped hands.
- Inhale and rock your body up to sit; exhale as you roll back.
- Continue for 1 minute, then roll back, extend arms and legs, and drift off to sleep.
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Author: Jennifer Matarazzo
Photos by Nick Cardillicchio
In our hectic life, it is not always possible to schedule time for working out, let alone practice yoga.
Though there can be no replacement for the complete session, you can easily include some of the following postures in your daily life. Read on!
1. Yoga at Office
Who says that you cannot squeeze in some time for yoga, in the midst of a busy workday? The following exercise can be easily done at one’s desk.
The Warrior Pose
This exercise corrects the spinal posture and helps relax the upper body. Here are the steps for the same:
i. Step One
Stretch out your arms, with the fingers pointing outward.
ii. Step Two
With your right foot forward, take a step in the outward direction bending your knee and keeping your left foot straight.
iii. Step Three
Hold this position for 10 seconds while you breathe in a slow rhythmic manner, keeping your upper body at rest.
iv. Step Four
Switch sides and repeat this posture with the other foot.
2. Yoga while Cooking
While you saute your tomatoes and wait for the eggs to boil, you can perform this exercise with ease.
This exercise propounds the ancient way of breathing appropriately, through the diaphragm instead of the stomach. It improves circulation and concentration. Some yoga experts believe that, regular practicing can help one lose weight and cure heart ailments as well.
i. Step One
Put your thumb on your left nostril.
ii. Step Two
Inhale as deeply as you can and hold the air in for some time. When you inhale, your belly should feel tension.
iii. Step Three
When you have to exhale, switch your thumb to block the left nostril and breathe out through the right. When exhaling, your belly should feel relaxed.
iv. Step Four
Repeat this process for half an hour.
3. Yoga while Bathing
You can perform the following exercise while taking a shower. The calming influence of water will enhance the healing effects of this posture.
This exercise brings about an agile flexibility in the neck and facilitates proper spinal health. Performing this regularly will keep chances of incurring spondylitis away.
i. Step One
Keep your body upright and chin relaxed to perform this exercise.
ii. Step Two
Inhale while lowering your neck, as far as possible, gradually lifting it to its starting position.
iii. Step Three
Exhale having reached the neutral position.
iv. Step Four
While inhaling slowly, tilt your head to the right. Exhale and return to the neutral position.
v. Step Five
Try this posture for the back and left in the similar way. Having completed all four rounds, rotate your head slowly in the clockwise direction once.
vi. Step Six
While you bring your head to the neutral position, breathe slowly.
vii. Step Seven
Rotate your head in the counter-clockwise direction, while breathing in the manner explained above.
By following the suggested exercises, you will be able to partake of the benefits of yoga, without actually having to perform lengthy workout routines.