Karma…..I’ve thrown this word around a lot in my life. Mainly as a flippant comment when getting a good parking spot at the beach or to justify someone’s poor actions catching up to them. It wasn’t a term I truly understood or took seriously. That changed after I started studying the philosophy of yoga (which is never-ending). I knew that it meant for every action there was an effect. But as I began to study karma through the lens of yoga I saw that it goes much deeper than I realized.
Karma through the lens of Yoga
Yoga emphasizes the importance of our thoughts. It warns us to be careful what we think because that will guide how we feel, which in turn guides how we act, or more appropriately at times, how we react. This pattern or habit tends to repeat throughout our lives, either in a negative or positive way. In my research I came to see the psychological side of karma. (In fact, the more I study yoga in general I realize it is a form of psychology.) Yoga teaches us to understand that everything is interconnected and, therefore, our thoughts and actions DO matter.
How yoga can help us change our karma
The 8 Limbs of Yoga, in Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras, is a wonderful guide to help us mold our karma with more positive thoughts and actions. For example, when we embody the ethics outlined in the 1st limb of yoga, the yamas (in Sanskrit), we learn basic principles on how to treat ourselves and all other living creatures in a non-harming, honest and compassionate way; by practicing our physical practice and breathing exercises we maintain a healthy and vibrant body and mind; in establishing a daily meditation practice, the 7th limb of yoga, we develop more patience and become less reactive; and in truly understanding that we are all interconnected (the 8th limb of yoga) we realize what we think, do and say affects our world.
By honing these positive skills we set ourselves up for making more thoughtful, compassionate choices. With each simple change in how we choose our thoughts and actions we can steer our karma towards love.
My karma shift
I made that shirt towards love. I started my asana practice (the physical practice of yoga) in my late 30’s. I not only saw the physical changes in my body, but after a few years I noticed changes in my way of thinking. One notable shift occurred on February 1, 2010---yes, I remember the exact date! It was the first date with the man I would later marry. We had known each other for years through the industry we worked in at the time. I was apprehensive about going out with him because I already had strong feelings for him and I didn’t want to be hurt. My typical pattern was to be guarded and closed (the wall to protect the heart). But just before that first date, I had taken an asana class where the yoga teacher discussed the concept of should versus want, encouraging us to think with our hearts instead of our minds. At that moment I realized she was right and that it was okay to follow my heart. So going into that date I was thinking loving, compassionate thoughts and I let go of the old guarded thought patterns. I softened my heart and mind and was able to be more open and honest with this man. This shift started a new pattern or trajectory for me… we were married exactly 3 years later on February 1, 2013.
Written by OM Matters Founder, Tambra Wayne