The majority of people who practice yoga would agree that yoga helps to build strength and flexibility. It may even support your weight loss program. But it is not the most important effect. Yoga also changes your attitude towards yourself and the world. You learn to be mindful about your thoughts and actions; to take responsibility for your life. Thousands of yogis around the world are making a difference by participating in community projects and helping those less fortunate—and many of these activists are making a difference right here in Colorado.
There is a special word in Sanskrit, seva, which translates to “selfless service”. Seva is an attitude towards the world with an open heart and readiness to help without expecting anything back. It is defined by the Seva Foundation as “compassion in action”.
The Seva Foundation is the most widely-known organization promoting Seva. Its programs are concentrated in nine developing countries to help local communities build sustainable solutions to fight poverty and disease.
Another well known program, Global Seva Challenge, is sponsored by the Off The Mat And Into The World organization, founded by Seane Corn. In five years it has raised more than two million dollars for projects in Cambodia, Uganda, South Africa and Haiti. Their 2012 campaign focuses on raising awareness to stop sex trafficking in India and worldwide.
Do Local Good
You don’t need to go overseas to practice Seva. Look around and you’ll see endless opportunities to improve your own community. Organize some friends from your yoga studio and get involved in actions close to your heart.
Here are just a few examples of the projects organized by Colorado yogis.
Tabitha Farrar, Boulder resident and activist, has started the non-profit organization Angel Organic to offer therapeutic arts, yoga, mindfulness and meditation instruction free of charge to individuals in need and organizations that work to better the lives of those in their community. Angel Organic seeks “to promote the concept that human beings are creatures that thrive on co-operation rather than competition, and that building our community as a whole rather than seeking individual gratification is a move toward the greater good for all”. Tabitha leads yoga classes at Safehouse for victims of domestic violence, Bridge House (a day shelter for the homeless), Paradox Sports (an organization enabling disabled populations to participate in fun activities), and First Baptist Church among others.
Brad Johnson of YogaSushiFun is another active member of the Denver Seva community. YogaSushiFun organizes weekly outings with yogis wishing to donate their time at homeless shelters and other special events to benefit the Global Seva Challenge in collaboration with Off The Mat.
Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Elena Mikhaylova from Golden, CO believes that we should learn from animals the practice of compassion and unconditional love and by helping them we can enrich human society.
Elena has been an active advocate for animals who works with Kindness Ranch, a home and rehabilitation center for dogs, cats, horses, sheep and pigs. On September 7-9, 2012 she will host a yoga retreat to support a sanctuary for animals retired from laboratory testing. The Kindness Ranch Yoga Retreat program includes yoga with dogs (participants can bring their own pets or find a partner among the Ranch’s animals), introduction to Reiki, Bhakti Flow, walking meditations and creative cooking competition. Participants of the retreat will learn about Kindness Ranch and help with the animal care.
Being a yogi means taking care of your body and soul–but it also involves creating and sharing positive energy. Just as we roll out our mat everyday, we can practice selfless service on a regular basis. Join existing movements or create your own. Think about your passion, recognize and feel the pain of others, and find an outlet to bring your compassion into action.
What’s your experience with Seva? How has it enriched your own yoga practice? We’d love to hear about your own journey and thoughts below in the comments.
Elena Mikhaylova is a freelance business writer, social media marketing consultant and yoga instructor. She has traveled to more than thirty countries and started several businesses in diverse industries. Among her projects were the first newspaper in the Congress of Russia and the first in United States International Pole Dance competition. She is a single parent of three teenagers and an advocate foran active lifestyle and animal welfare. She can be reached through www.cyber-buzz.com.