by Lk Bookman
Service work, or Seva, is a very important aspect of living a fulfilling life, and it's certainly not unique to the yoga world; one doesn't have to be a yoga practitioner or teacher to know that serving others can increase happiness in her own life. My grandmother was not a yoga practitioner, but she thrived on helping others and was a great example for me and my family to follow.
Yoga has been a strong passion of mine for many years and has proven to be very integral to finding balance and fulfillment in my life. Early on, practicing yoga asana (postures) give me the ability to let go of the pain of my past and find peace within myself. As I began to study the profound, yet simple philosophical teachings of yoga, I discovered the importance of service work, and as I continue to serve, I know that helping others can bring deep satisfaction.
I've taught yoga to both adults and children, but never at the same time. I was excited as I carefully laid out 10 yoga mats in the music room of the school and waited … and waited. I knew it could be a tough sell to get moms and daughters away from more familiar activities to try something like yoga, which can be intimidating to people who know little about it. Soon though, a mother and daughter peeked into the room and decided it was safe enough to enter. They seated themselves on two mats directly in front of me, the mother looking encouragingly at her shy daughter.
We started with a brief introduction to yoga and it's benefits, and before you can shake a navel, they were practicing belly breathing with their eyes closed and repeating simple affirmations to themselves. I noticed a few more faces at the door and encouraged the late comers to join us. Before I realized it, almost every mat was occupied. We continued with the breathing and affirmation practice for a few more minutes and then moved into practicing postures. It was so much fun to see the mothers and daughters engage with and encourage each other as they practiced downward-facing dog, tree pose, crab pose and even a few partner poses. They didn't seem to care if they looked silly or fell out of a pose, they were having fun!
When we were finished, I invited everyone to share their thoughts and how they were feeling after the practice. I heard a few of the regular answers one might expect, but one little girl said, “While I was breathing with my eyes closed, I felt like I was floating on a cloud. It was so calming and peaceful.” That was the reaction I was hoping for and one most yoga teachers love to hear. Being able to touch just one life with this amazing practice was an incredible opportunity, and whether she continues with yoga or not, I know I made a positive difference in that little girl's life for that brief time.
It's called Seva, and it is the sweetest gift.