Karma Yoga, Higher Purpose, and Gratitude

Karma Yoga, Higher Purpose, and Gratitude

by Beth Shaw | 25/08/2015

Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between giving back, gratitude and happiness. How will happiness affect your YogaLean program? As discussed in previous chapters you will be more in a flow state when you are happy and flow states improve your happiness. When we give back, help others and practice being grateful our life satisfaction and happiness levels soar.


​Dr. Bill Larkin's book – Growing the Positive Mind


Why give back ?  If you are in a state of good health and have been blessed with the most valuable asset – health, giving back to those less fortunate feels like and is the right thing to do. Ultimately, our new YogaLean lifestyle is meant not only for our personal benefit but also the good of those around us. It matters less what we do on our mats than how and why. When we are able to relinquish the desire to be rewarded for our efforts or our actions, then our own good health enables us to give back selflessly to a world starving for more compassion, kindness and wisdom.


One of the best ways to lose weight and gain a better understanding of who we are mentally and physically is not actually focusing on ourselves.  It’s about channeling that energy into a higher purpose through serving our community and world.  We all carry a higher purpose in life that is beyond us and once we connect to that purpose, a renowned happiness will guide us.


Some people are in touch with their purpose with ease, while others struggle to find it, but here are some ways all of us can find it:


I have had the blessing of being able to see signs from the Universe throughout my life. In college while I was stretching I got the profound insight that I would be very successful in the health and fitness sector. When I was on a bike ride in 1994 the name YogaFit came to me. Listening to the Universe is profound and can be an amazing source of guidance and solace – here are some tips to help you in that process.


  1. Use meditation to listen to the inner voice that speaks to you during meditation
  2. Learn and understand the difference between a thought and an insight- we have 60,000 a day and we often don’t remember them- you will know when an insight comes.   I
  3. Understand what in this world touches your heart whether it’s animals, children, seniors, orphans, war veterans, people with HIV, Cancer, Leukemia
  4. Pray to the universe to send you signs and synchronicities
  5. Notice when you wake up with insights and knowings
  6. Journal about your dreams – they can provide powerful answers
  7. Learn to differentiate between a thought and intuition
  8. Listen for messages from the Universe that may come from other people.  Like they say in the Kabbalah – LOOK FOR THE SIGNS Sometimes people say things  “ out of nowhere “ that are meaningful and can guide you.


Once you’ve developed an ongoing practice of searching for your higher purpose, you will start feeling and experiencing signs that point you to what it might be.  You might also notice that some of your current beliefs and practices might have shifted slightly, leading you to something greater and more divine.  If you are consciously trying to tap into this higher purpose, you will naturally lead yourself to it.


Patricia A. Boyle, PhD of Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, who conducted this study among elderly participants, believes that purpose in life reflects the tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and be focused and intentional.


During the study, which his published in Psychosomatic, they found that a higher purpose of life was associated with a substantially reduced risk of mortality and the results were not varied among gender or race. “The finding that purpose in life is related to longevity in older persons suggests that aspects of human flourishing—particularly the tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and possess a sense of intentionality and goal-directedness—contribute to successful aging,” said Boyle.


Significant associations with mortality were found with three specific items on the purpose of life questionnaire to determine the study participants’ agreement with the following statements:


“I sometimes feel as if I’ve done all there is to do in life”


“I used to set goals for myself, but that now seems like a waste of time”


“My daily activities often seem trivial and unimportant to me”


“Although we think that having a sense of purpose in life is important across the lifespan, measurement of purpose in life in older persons in particular may reveal an enduring sense of meaningfulness and intentionality in life that somehow provides a buffer against negative health outcomes,” said Boyle.


Finding your purpose is embracing your daily activities or finding ones that make you thrive; setting goals that are achievable; doing more and more to enhance your well-being and keep you young at heart; being grateful everyday; and most importantly giving these things to those around you, especially the less fortunate.  No matter your age, there is always something left to give.


From the Four Paths of Yoga

"Karma yoga focuses on the causes and effects of an individual’s actions. It teaches how to live a life of spiritual/right action and selfless service. The true follower of the karma path acts without thought of gain or reward. Karma yoga is a yoga you take inside of you and make a way of life. It is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing nature. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions, you learn to sublimate the ego. To achieve this, it is helpful to keep your mind focused by repeating a mantra while engaged in any activity."


At YogaFit Karma yoga is the basis of our company. Every Trainee and student is requested to give back.


I taught at a spa in Ojai California once where the woman would eat proportioned meals with certain calorie counts and then hop on a treadmill to burn the calories off. I was teaching a yoga class there and when I ran five minutes over teaching past the hour, everyone was in an uproar.  So much rigidity was present- My first thought was these women have too much time on their hands. Whether we are over eating because we are bored or obsessing over our food intake to an unnatural degree – we need a higher purpose. In Dr. William Larkin’s book Growing the Positive Mind, it states that higher purpose tops the chart of indicators of happiness. At Yogafit we give all our students a higher purpose starting with our level one training when we make participants complete 8 hours of Community Service teaching in underserved communities in order to start practicing what they have learned in a traditional class setting.


In order to round out our new practices, we must share what we’ve learned with the universe, whether it’s through projecting our newfound energy and positivity by spending our time with good intentions and giving to those people around us who are less fortunate. When we give, we feel the good of that giving in our minds and body.  Watching someone’s face light up in the event of charity is one of the most joyful gifts we can receive.


There is an extreme satisfaction to donating belongings and time to charity. Studies have shown that giving back and philanthropy go a long way in feelings of happiness and personal success.  De-cluttering your kitchen (and beyond) and then donating the goods that no longer serve you, will soon serve someone who is in need.


Charity manifests itself in many ways from donating time to donating goods.  As an example, cooking for others can be an offering, a means of using your resources to provide for those around you. When wholesome food is prepared and served by hands unconcerned with receiving acknowledgement or praise for the effort or accomplishments, it nourishes the heart as well as the body. Whether you are preparing meals for family, a sick friend or the homeless, what was once a chore, becomes “serving joy.”


10 Ways to Give


Many of the below suggestions will benefit others and doing good for others is Karma Yoga and you will reap the benefits tenfold.  Recognize the feeling you get and understand that your focus and energy will shift drastically.


  1. Volunteer at your local animal Shelter / ASPCA to walk orphan dogs
  2. Volunteer with Meals on Wheels to deliver food to the aged and infirmed
  3. Volunteer to read to underprivileged children or the blind
  4. Donate any already read magazine/Books to Senior Centers or Retirement Homes
  5. Donate old towels, sheets and blankets to your local animal shelter or pet rescue organization. Donate pet toys & food too
  6. Teach a free yoga class to a group of a risk teens
  7. Donate body care products to the Visiting Nurses Organizations- Nightingales Society.
  8. Donate clothes you have not worn for 6 months to Women’s organizations like Second Chance. Donate Men’s clothes to the Shelter
  9. Always spay & Neuter your pets  - save lives & stop overpopulation
  10. Donate eyeglasses to Africa
  11. Consider giving your old blankets, towels and sheets to one of my favorite animal rescue groups is Blankets of Love that donate these items to shelter dogs.


A few words on gratitude


One of the most widespread practices in the United States is Thanksgiving. In Growing the Positive Mind, Larkin relays that gratitude is the emotion that produces the most positive reaction in our body. Being thankful, then, literally creates a healthier environment for our mind, body and spirit. Regardless of what we are bringing with us each day, we “show up” for our lives grateful for the bodies we are living in today and the situations we find ourselves in. Through seeking to accept and appreciate what we have, we find ourselves drawn out of our life circumstances and into our lives. Inevitably, we discover peace and joy.


At YogaFit we incorporate gratitude lists and also the practice of  keeping a gratitude journal where you jot down things you are grateful for on a daily basis. In YogaFit's Level 5 Training we actually write Gratitude lists after we tear up the list of everything we regret, have remorse for.  This can include a belief system that does not serve you.  The act of tearing up or burning these lists seems to help us get rid of things we don't need or carry with us.  This process should be a regular one for clearing purposes.


Using Gratitude lists, this method will help you gain back an understanding of what makes your happy and what gives you grace.  Your gratitude journal can contain anything you are thankful for- your friendships, summer peaches, the fact that you are able to hold a pose longer than ever before, or simply the sun.  As with any journal, there should be no judgment when penning your thanks. Start with three items a day.


I am grateful for…

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