“Seva,” means “Service” in Sanskrit.
Seva is an integral part of the practice of yoga. It’s one of the gems that gives our practice purpose and meaning beyond the physical.
Asana (the practice of yoga postures) is a great place to start on the path of yoga— it helps us connect the body, brain and breath. Over time, many experienced practitioners come to realize that taking care of their vessel is crucial to showing up in life with authentic confidence, clarity and focus. If self-care is a true priority, only then can we consider serving from a place of love, empathy and compassion.
Many people choose to focus their Seva on something they feel personally connected to and passionate about. For example, my friend, Holly, has a deep love of animals, so she chooses to volunteer her time once a week at a reputable local shelter. My friend, Jenny, is a combat war veteran and serves her community by leading writing workshops specifically for veterans to help them process PTSD and live a full life after going through war. Our very own ChildLight trainer, Rochelle Jewell, combined her love of yoga & service by founding an incredible non-profit, Yoga in Action.
If we realize we are in an ideal position to serve, we must also commit to serving responsibly. This is what makes the best service work challenging. Seva can hold a mirror up to our shadow (the parts of ourselves that we still struggle with) which opens us up to the potential for re-traumatization. Even if we think we’ve resolved an old trauma, it will very likely resurface, full-force, when we witness an injustice or hear of something that triggers us out in the field, throwing us right back into our old wounds and memories. Seva can be ruthlessly revealing and heartbreaking at times. But that’s something that great change requires. Doing great work in the world and doing it well is not easy. It requires incredible sacrifice and discomfort every now and then.
This is where the physical yoga practice can become enormously helpful. Asana and pranayama (breathing techniques) helps us release tension and discharge the energy that no longer serve us. We breathe deep, stretch and sweat so we don’t hold onto the trauma.
Many experienced yoga practitioners reach a point in their journey where they start to ask themselves, “How can I be of service?” If you have found yourself asking the very same question, consider answering the eight questions below to help you discover your purpose at this time.
- How do you like to spend your time?
- What current issues do you feel most passionate about?
- If you had unlimited time & resources, what could you do that combines your answers to #1 & #2?
- What resources do you already have?
- What resources do you need?
- Who could you ask in your circle or friends, family, co-workers to help you?
- What is your vision (may be large or small) regarding the impact of your Seva?
- What are 3 action steps that you can do this month to get started?
Some folks have money to donate. Some donate their time. Some don’t have spare time OR extra money, and that’s a clear indication that until something changes, service may not be a possibility. Some people are in service to their families by raising their children well or supporting a sick relative. Some people serve locally and some globally. No matter how one is called to serve, the resounding outcome is the same— what we give is nothing compared to what we get. And what do we get? Well, I imagine everyone would articulate that answer a little differently. Service is humbling. It helps me remember my gratitude and bask in the awesomeness of my one, precious life.
What would you say?
Yoga is a multi-billion-dollar industry. If yoga practitioners everywhere focused on redirecting our collective spending to supporting sustainable projects and transparent organizations, we could see an incredible shift in the way our world functions.