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Everyone is familiar with the work ‘karma’ and most understand it as the simple consequences of our actions. But by simply living in this world we also share karma with our families, our communities, our nations, and our planet.

In yogic philosophy the world we inhabit is one wherein we must repay our karmic debts. This is usually seen as suffering.

The whole point of yoga is more than enlightenment – it is an end to all suffering, not just your own.

Paying off karmic debts would be a lot easier if we were not also continually racking up more of them. As Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita:

“Those who are attached to personal reward will reap the consequences of their actions: some pleasant, some unpleasant, some mixed. But those who renounce every desire for personal reward go beyond the reach of karma.”

Stated simply, do what you do because it must be done, and do it without expectation. No ‘thank you’ or ‘job well done.’ Our expectations create new karma, regardless of weather our desires are met or thwarted.

Sharing karma means we share in our suffering. So we are obligated to help expire all karma in order to alleviate all suffering.

Compassion literally means “to suffer with.” Biting your tongue and turning a blind eye when you bear witness to suffering, especially when you know the cause, is not an example of compassion. As Elie Wiesel said “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.”

Any refusal to act simply allows the suffering of others to continue. This indifference is irresponsible. Love and compassion are active, not passive.

Yogi Gupta would often say “Yoga is doing anything to make the world better.” The practice of yoga is actually activism. Activism is an expression of love and compassion. We do it because it is right, because it must be done to end suffering in this world, to take action against inequity, hunger, and illness.

Yoga is not a selfish practice. Yes, it makes us feel good, but we need to remember what we practice for. It’s not about a better-looking butt, or seeing how flexible we can become. It is about how we can become vessels of compassion and bringers of mercy, how we can love the whole world as we love ourselves and how we can expire our karma together.

If we share karma, we can never be free, never attain liberation, so long as a single soul suffers.

Yoga is not a selfish practice. Yes, it makes us feel good, but the real practice is off our mats and in the world.