A common statement in many yoga classes is do what serves you. While on its face it seems like a useful and harmless instruction, it should be approached with caution. In yoga, doing "what serves you" takes you in the wrong direction for several reasons.
First, we don’t know what serves us! As students, we should seek to expand our limitations and beliefs. If we act within the confines of what we already believe serves us, it's possible that we are simply building up the structures in our mind. Doing what serves us can build up a false sense of knowing. But this false sense of knowing is what the practice of yoga is trying to undo.
If we look at this statement do what serves you on a deeper level, we find conflict in it. This statement takes the definition of who we are for granted. Are we the body? Are we the mind? Who is the you this statement is talking about? In yoga practice, seeking the deeper definition of this word is the goal of the practice.
Lastly, our job as yogis is to think about how we can serve, not to think about what is serving us. When we practice thinking about what serves us, our minds go in the wrong direction. With that mentality, we make the world into an entity that we believe should serve us in some way. We think about what we can get, and how we can personally benefit. But this is not the path of yoga. In yoga, we need to closely monitor how we act and what are actions are. When we do this, we realize that actions of service become a wonderful path for us to take. They connect us with humanity and other beings, instead of pitting us against others for personal gain. We should practice thinking about how we can serve, not about what should be serving us. This is the path of freedom.
As yogis, we need to be careful of the pitfalls of the mind. We should seek to find out who we really are. From that place, we should serve.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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