According to the Bhagavad Gita, a holy scripture from India, there are four main paths of yoga:
- Jnana – Path of Knowledge
- Karma – Path of selfless work
- Bhakti – Path of devotion
- Raja – Path of control of the mind
From these paths a multitude of systems, styles and approaches have come about including Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. All of these system have their own place and validity and in my opinion much of practicing yoga is finding the correct fit/style for your own personality.
Out of these four main paths I find myself attracted to karma yoga the most. One of the issues that I have worked with my whole life though is how to navigate the difference between “selfless work” and “giving in a way that drains you or is with resentment or expectation”. As a yoga teacher there are many opportunities to give your services away. Actually in many ways people expect it from yoga teachers and I believe sometimes people manipulate this situation (intentionally or not). They might choose to pay a trained counselor or fitness instructor but then expect the yoga teacher to offer their services for free because of “karma”. One of my most inspirational yoga teachers shared with me her approach in dealing with this and it is something I have chosen to use in my teaching as well.
Basically I offer a percentage of yoga teaching for free. The interesting thing about this percentage rule is that the limit encourages me seek volunteer opportunities that feel important within the context of my beliefs and life experiences. Because I don’t just say yes to whatever comes along I get to choose where I think my services will fit the best. It feels very clean and doesn’t leave me feeling drained at all. Actually it is the opposite. I feel energized by the volunteer work I do and happy to be offering my services.