This Is What Seva Looks Like

Sure, you could teach yoga to com­mu­ni­ties in need. But this year’s Good Karma Award win­ners ex­em­plify the many other ways to prac­tice seva, or self­less ser­vice. Here are their in­spir­ing sto­ries, plus ad­vice to help you find your own path to giv­ing back.

Yoga Journal - - CONTENTS - By Meghan Rab­bitt

You don’t need end­less funds or free time to give back in mean­ing­ful ways. Get in­spired to do good to­day by this year’s Good Karma Award win­ners.

JILL BRENNER CAN POINT to a spe­cific mo­ment in her first yoga-teacher train­ing that changed the tra­jec­tory of what the an­cient prac­tice would mean to her for­ever. “The teacher said, ‘Treat oth­ers like they are in­side of you—those who are less for­tu­nate, even the most evil,’” re­calls the pub­lic re­la­tions exec turned yoga teacher. “These dual con­cepts, that we are all con­nected and should prac­tice com­pas­sion for oth­ers, re­ally res­onated with me and has in­spired me to be of ser­vice through yoga ever since.” Aha mo­ments like Brenner’s are com­mon for yoga prac­ti­tion­ers, prompt­ing us to wake up to a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing the world a bet­ter place, says Rob Sch­ware, PhD, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Give Back Yoga Foun­da­tion. “All yoga prac­tices are about pay­ing at­ten­tion,” says Sch­ware. “As we work to im­prove our­selves, the veils of avidya— a ba­sic ig­no­rance of who we are, and of the un­der­ly­ing reality that ev­ery­thing in the uni­verse is con­nected—be­gin to fall away. And as we get closer to un­der­stand­ing how con­nected we are to our fel­low yoga stu­dents, fam­i­lies, and com­mu­ni­ties, we ask our­selves, ‘How can I be most use­ful?’”

Of course, a host of things pre­cludes many of us from tak­ing the next step and ac­tu­ally an­swer­ing this ques­tion, much less act­ing on it. Busy lives may leave little time for vol­un­teer­ing; tight bud­gets can make do­nat­ing money a chal­lenge. And while so many of us with teacher train­ings un­der our belts would like to use our train­ing to bring yoga to un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties, it doesn’t mean we ac­tu­ally can (for the rea­sons above and more).

Sch­ware says it’s im­por­tant to think about yoga ser­vice in broader terms. “You don’t have to launch a brand-new non­profit to give the gift of yoga to a com­mu­nity in need,” he says. “Just as yoga shows us how to be here now, giv­ing back can be about

do­ing some­thing now.” In a sense, your char­i­ta­ble en­deav­ors are your yoga prac­tice: help­ing feed the hun­gry, solv­ing wa­ter scarcity is­sues, tu­tor­ing or men­tor­ing stu­dents, gro­cery shop­ping for the el­derly or home­bound—it all counts as seva. The best part? Ser­vice can be both cus­tom­ized and im­me­di­ate. “If you’re a writer, help an or­ga­ni­za­tion with its mar­ket­ing or so­cial me­dia ef­forts; if you have a back­ground in law, ac­count­ing, or web de­vel­op­ment, of­fer your skills to or­ga­ni­za­tions that are al­ready do­ing amaz­ing work. Any­one with tal­ent and knowl­edge can help ex­pand yoga ser­vice,” says Sch­ware.

For Brenner, giv­ing back means teach­ing yoga to young adults with autism and work­ing pro bono to help Ashrams for Autism, a non­profit she truly be­lieves in, with their press outreach, mes­sag­ing, and mar­ket­ing. Her story, on page 43, ex­em­pli­fies the phi­los­o­phy of giv­ing back now, in which­ever ways you can. In fact, she and the other Good Karma Award win­ners em­body the same spirit. While the big­com­pany win­ners you’ll read about here could have sim­ply writ­ten big checks, each went fur­ther, de­vot­ing both re­sources and time to help ser­vice-fo­cused or­ga­ni­za­tions ex­pand their in­flu­ence and broaden their im­pacts. In the pages that fol­low you’ll also learn about the in­di­vid­u­als who launched these or­ga­ni­za­tions, forg­ing pos­i­tive change and cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the rest of us to do more good. And then there are the be­hind-the-scenes heroes—peo­ple like Brenner who are shar­ing their tal­ents to help en­hance lives through yoga. Get ready to feel in­spired—and spurred into ac­tion.

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