Many yoga teachers, including myself, mention in class that your yoga practice is a warm up for what you do and how you act after you walk away from your mat and return to work or play. I encourage students and fellow yogis to breathe in moments of stress, to love more, and to see through the other person’s eyes and ears. I encourage them to not gossip and to see God in all.
But, can we make an even deeper impression on our community – and the world?
If you take a class once a week, will that encourage you to spread peace and remain calm amidst a storm, whether it’s an emotional storm or a literal hurricane? If you resolve to keep up a practice at home and remain strong for 40 or 90 days with continuous meditation and/or pranayam, then yes, it will. Your Sadhana can serve as your backbone in “being the change.”
Here are some other factors to think about:
- Are your choices in life coming from your intuition?
- Do you have a stronger sense of self?
- Is your awareness attuned to what is happening around you and to others?
- Do you feel more compassion for people, animals, living beings?
- Have you begun to tithe?
- Are you doing Seva (volunteering, serving, helping)?
- Are you teaching children yoga or meditation?
- Are you teaching for free at least once per year?
- Do you visit women’s shelters to help and teach meditation or in prisons?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, your Sadhana is working and, better yet, making the world a more peaceful and sustainable place.
The first four questions are all about the change within you. They can help you navigate the many obstacles, roadblocks, or day-to-day challenges that pop up.
The last five questions are practical ways to put into use the ideals and heart-opening effects of Sadhana.
“Tithe” is a word that many people do not know or use. It means to give up 10% of your personal income. I grew up in the Catholic religion and remember my parents putting money in the basket at church. Those funds were to help in whatever way the church deemed necessary and appropriate. My earnings today go to various community organizations in my neighborhood because I have been given a space to teach freely.
So, I return the favor. I have found that in giving, I receive.
Seva, or helping others, is another way to deliver the practices and integrate changes you experience in Sadhana into your life. Look around and see who needs help. Is it your neighbor next door, a local food co-op, a volunteer food pantry, a local library, hospice? There are many in need. You can also use the local library to offer a free class for children or adults. Libraries love free programs!
Given the number of kids diagnosed with ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome, children can always use yoga and meditation. Again, it might be through volunteering. It just takes a phone call to ask your local schools if you could come in once a month to teach. Even so, I teach down the road at a school for children with learning difficulties, and I am paid. The benefits of being around those beautiful souls makes my day, especially when I receive hugs! Children need the gifts of learning how to calm their minds, become more mindful of others, and enjoy the movement of their bodies.
Last but not least, consider visiting a nearby women’s shelter or correctional facility. Supporting the change of a person’s thoughts and actions comes from within the individuals themselves, not through punishment. Whether you’re a child or an adult, reducing anxiety through breathing and awareness of the heartbeat often leads to peace and harmony.
First, commit to 40 days. Then, challenge yourself to take your practice off the mat every day for another 40 days, with attention to your every action. That’s a good place to start, and then broaden those steps to include any one or more of the above ideas.
Kathe Forrest/Siri Kirin is the author of The 40-Day Sadhana Companion: A Guided Journal (formerly titled Keep the Change). She is a mom, grandma called Nonni, yoga teacher, herbalist, and nutritionist. She lives deep in the heart of Texas and volunteers through her local hospice and herb society.