We commonly use the word dharma to “mean purpose in life.” Another meaning of the word is “essence.” Your essence is the heart of your existence. Your dharma is the essence of who you are. From your essence arise your intentions. Your intentions drive your thoughts. Your thoughts give rise to your words. Your words are translated into actions – your actions into habits of behavior. Your habits of behavior manifest as your contribution to the world. This is your dharma.

Being in dharma means aligning your intentions, thoughts, words, and actions with your essence. This requires the power of commitment. A commitment is a contract between your body, mind, and soul. When you empower your intentions with commitment, your actions, thoughts, and feelings express your highest Self. You manifest your dharma in the world, bringing fulfillment to you and those affected by your choices.

As an instructor of yoga, meditation, or Ayurveda, you may have discovered your dharma in teaching, communicating ideas, and helping others move from constriction to expansion. Yet dharma is always unfolding, and we can continue to move along the most evolutionary path by enlivening the Law of Dharma in our lives. Here are a few practices that can help you deepen your connection to your own essence and purpose:

  • I cultivate inner stillness through my meditation or yoga practice, which then allows me to hear the quiet messages that emerge from the deepest level of my being.
  • I connect to my life’s purpose by asking someone I know truly loves and cares about me, “What do you think is my best quality, trait or talent?”
  • I ask myself, “How could I bring more creativity, passion, or joy into what I am doing?”
  • I nurture a shift in my internal dialogue from “What’s in it for me?” to “How can I serve?” I notice how when I am doing what I love, I am able to bring joy and inspiration to those around me.
  • I look for opportunities to do one thing for another person that brings a smile to their face.
  • I consider what I would like most to hear from someone and I say these words to another person.
  • I take the time to do something that I love and share my enthusiasm or creation with others.

If we are willing to make a new commitment to translate our intentions into choices, peace, happiness, love, and abundance begin flowing into our lives. We align with our sacred purpose and fully live our dharma.

From my beloved teacher, David Simon.

In today’s modern world, the term “forms of yoga” typically conjures up images in our mind of the various styles and techniques of the physical – or asana – practice of yoga; Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Power, Kundalini, Bikram, and many more.  The rise of numerous yoga classes, studios and styles all over the US isa testament to the indisputable truth that the practice of yoga – in terms of asana – leads one to live a more balanced, centered, physically fit and mentally grounded lifestyle.  Traditionally speaking, however, there are four forms of yoga: Gyan, Bhakti, Karma, and Raja.

Gyan yoga is the yoga of understanding, the yoga of science, it’s the path of knowledge and wisdom leading to intellectual development.  In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Deepak Chopra writes “The yoga of understanding has been referred to in the Upanishads as the “razor’s edge,” and we are cautioned to tread carefully on this path.  As we gain understanding of the laws of nature, we run the risk of arrogance.  Arrogance inflates the ego, and the ego overshadowes the spirit.  The original sincere quest for discovery leads to an alienation from the very source with which intimacy was sought.”  Many of us have found that the more we think we know, the more we realize we don’t know anything at all.  In our quest to unravel the secrets of the unknown, we find ourselves further down the rabbit hole, and the unknown becomes even more mysterious.  In other words, the more we seek, the further away from the truth we get.  This form of yoga is an opportunity to approach our curiosity from a place of innocence and to root our awareness in our experience.  Ultimately, our experiences are what become our truth, thus setting the foundation for our knowledge and understanding.

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of love and devotion.  This form of yoga encourages us to make love the basis for all of our experiences.  It is through our relationships with ourselves and others that we are able to connect with our higher Self and the higher Self of others.  We tend to think of love as something that just is, or it just isn’t.  What we can learn through the practice of Bhakti yoga is to practice loving more.  To be specific, if there is an area of disconnect in your life whether it be in a relationship with yourself or another being, a disconnect or sense of separation from nature or the cosmos, you can actively set your attention on your intention to be more lovingly connected with these aspects.  Through consistent awareness and practice of actively loving, you just might find that where love previously felt like a struggle or, perhaps, was missing altogether, that just through your attention and your intention, you are able to reignite the flame of love in all that do do, all that you see and all that you experience in life.

Karma yoga is the yoga of action.  Here in the west we generally think of karma as a way in which we are forced to repent for our wrongdoings.  Karma simply means action; good, bad or indifferent.  The practice of karma yoga leads to detachment from outcome and one-pointed, mindful focus on performing your actions.  By continuously asking ourself the question “How can I serve?”, we are divinely guided toward action that unfolds potential for ourselves and for all of existence.  When we recognize that we are the instrument through which the ultimate Supreme Being is able to express itself, we let go of our need to control outcomes because we know that we are merely the conduit through which God is performing an action.  Action from this level of consciousness liberates us and reminds us that we are eternal beings on a cosmic journey.

Raja yoga is the Royal path of yoga.  Raja yoga helps us to practice the other forms of yoga with greater ease, as it gives us a specific set of guidelines or practices to follow in our every day lives.  We know of these guidelines as the eight limbed path.  The eight limbs consist of 1) Rules of social behavior, 2) Rules of personal behavior, 3) Asana: physical postures, 4) Pranayama: breath control, 5) Pratyahara: directing the senses inward, 6) Dharana: mastery of attention and intention, 7) Dhyana: development of witnessing awareness, and 8) Samadhi: the state of being settled in pure, unbounded awareness.  By placing our awareness in each of these eight limbs on a daily basis, and with practice, we are able to draw in and connect with the subtle characteristics of each limb, thus establishing an intergration of our body, mind and soul.

 

Ultimately, we each have to choose which type of yoga is in alignment with our personal inclination and disposition. Traditionally, it is said that karma yoga is for the active, bhakti yoga for the devotional, raja yoga for the strong-willed, and gyan yoga for the rational. These are just some very broad guidelines when it comes to choosing which yoga to follow. It is best to check within first so you can allow yourself to naturally discover which path actually suits you best. In the end, all four yogas can lead to freedom when practiced daily with commitment to the chosen path.

“The mind of the yogi is always fixed on God, always absorbed in the Self.”
– Sri Ramakrishna

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