I Tried Karma Yoga For Ten Days And It Was Life-Changing

by Puja Gokarn
Yoga? A spiritual workout good for the mind, body and soul. Roughly, yoga practice is a space removed from daily life, chores and the office, where you’re twisting like a pretzel on your yoga mat surrounded by other sweaty practitioners all with their own hangups, goals, and physical limitations. Yoga can be a humbling experience for even the fittest among us. 

But a very intriguing Huffington Post article recently reminded me that yoga is more than a workout, it's a faith, a way of life to achieve enlightenment, something to incorporate into the every day in order to achieve a higher quality of life. The article details four main paths to follow toward that enlightenment. But Karma Yoga is the simplest to grasp, so I began with that one. I pulled out my journal and wrote, “For the next ten days, I’m going to practice Karma Yoga (if not for any other reason, to just see what happens).”

Day 1: Karma Yoga is the path of selfless good deeds.

The first day was the easiest. I was eager and resolute, the way a child feels when he or she decides "to be good from this day onward."  I was on a spree; giving a homeless person food, offering my seat to an elderly woman on my way to work and doing everything that made me feel like a good person. That day I thought, “Why hadn’t I been doing all of this every day all along? Why were these things extraordinary?”

Day 2: The same things you did yesterday don’t feel as good today? Not fun!

This feeling made me want to skip a few of my pursuits of kindness. Besides, everyone you help isn't even grateful. So, why should I bother? I might as well do my own thing and feel satisfied about it. I even rewarded myself with a drink for all the good things I’d done. And that’s where I defeated the very purpose of practicing Karma Yoga. And I already let this anti-yoga thought process get into to my head. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.

Day 3: I made a table in my journal of good and bad karma throughout the day.

While sharing my lunch with someone at work upped the good karma, snapping at my mom evened the score. I went on till the good karma was more than the bad. Back to feeling good about myself, I read more on Karma Yoga.

Day 4 & 5: One of the main principles of Karma Yoga is that it’s not just acts of kindness or service – it’s making sure that all your actions are good.

I kept up the column. It suddenly made me aware of myself and of people around me. I consciously began to avoid doing or saying hurtful things, bitching, gossiping or ego clashes. It made me realize all the things I’d been taking for granted or been ignorant of, like my parents or my responsibility towards my team at work.

Day 6: With the negatives in my day like jealousy, ego and anger considerably reduced, the increase in productivity was remarkable.

I started becoming much more sensitive to the people and situations around me. Sensitivity and productivity make things you usually ignore or don't pay attention to extremely visible to you. It gave me a very aware presence of mind and I began to think better on my feet.

Day 7: A very important thing happened, which I documented in my journal. The familiar disappointment of people not being grateful started creeping up on me again.

Then I paused to think “what am I grateful for?” Being grateful for everything in my life has now become sacrosanct. That includes being grateful for being able to work and serve.

Day 8: People slowly started noticing the changes in me and complimenting me on it.

It’s a slightly dangerous territory. That great feeling you get about yourself starts becoming an addiction. You live from increasing expectation to increasing disappointment in everything you do. Another defining feature of Karma Yoga is doing the deed but detaching from the fruit of it. You surrender the fruit to the higher power you believe in and simply do things as your duty. I began to think that getting to do the deed itself was the reward.

Day 9: The last and most important part of Karma Yoga is detaching the ‘I’ from the deed.

It states that you are merely the instrument or medium through which the good work gets done. This is difficult and I’m still not great at it. But yes, it does work miracles in the humility department.


Day 10: On the last day, there was a sense of self-assurance, of calm and composure, a lightness.

Positive thoughts and faith come to me more easily now. I’m going to just come out and say it – I feel beautiful. Although I still house a fear about whether or not I will be able to sustain this, I know for a fact that there’s no turning back from my new, enlightened state of mind.  

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