Yoga is so much more than just a physical practice for improving your health, and Seva yoga is a beautiful depiction of how you can genuinely take your yoga practice off the mat and out into the world to create real change.
In Sanskrit, the word Seva means selfless service, and Seva yoga is ultimately the practice of giving back to others and dedicating yourself to benefit the greater good.
Seva yoga can come in many different forms and occur in many different places, but at the core of all Seva yoga practices is an internal mindset of dedication to others and a surrender of any results or personal recognition for your efforts.
Definition of Seva Yoga
The word Seva in Sanskrit comes from the root word sev, meaning to serve, but beyond mere service, this word represents a more devotional and heart-centered form of work dedicated to the betterment of others and the world at large. Whether you work in a soup kitchen for the homeless or open the door for someone else during your day, even small acts can be a form of Seva yoga.
The practice of Seva yoga first developed in the setting of ashrams or hermitages dedicated to spiritual practice in India. Within each ashram, there often were no staff members or sometimes a very small team, and instead, ashrams survive through the selfless service and contribution of others. In each ashram, this service can take the form of washing dishes, cooking meals, scrubbing the floor, or performing other devotional services.
The contribution of volunteer work by ashram residents and local visitors helps keep these spiritual centers running for many years to continue to disseminate their profound spiritual teachings. But on a more concrete level, Seva yoga is also often related to the custom of offering yoga teachings at a free or discounted rate so that these teachings are accessible to all.
Devotional service by individuals to support the ashram through Seva yoga also helps the ashram teachers to engage in their Seva yoga of teaching others for free. This creates a supportive cycle for each person to engage in Seva yoga in a different way that ultimately upholds the fundamental nature of the institution and the most important factor: the dissemination of spiritual wisdom.
But at the core of all Seva yoga practices is perhaps the most crucial component: the state of your heart and mind. Seva yoga is not merely engaging in volunteer work or offering free classes. How you feel internally and the thoughts you have in your mind form the foundation for this practice becoming Seva yoga rather than just volunteer work. Seva yoga combines karma yoga, the yoga of action, with bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotional service, to create a beautiful union of body, mind, and soul.
Seva yoga emphasizes surrendering each action to a higher power, releasing any desire for a specific outcome or recognition for your work, and loving each person as if they were your own family member. Cultivating this internal state of love in your heart and mind can transform your being and allow a radical shift in your consciousness to connect you closer with the divine that permeates all of life.
Benefits of Seva Yoga
Giving back to others and the world is inherently beneficial for the functioning of our entire society. But beyond these external benefits, Seva yoga can also cause a profound shift in your consciousness, thereby improving your mental and physical wellbeing. The primary benefits of Seva yoga may include:
- Release negativity
- Improve self-awareness
- Develop inner peace and contentment
- Reverse anxiety and depression
- Relieve stress
- Embody selflessness
- Improve the world
- Connect with true bliss and joy
- Push through inner resistance and difficulties
- Let go of internal fears and limitations
- Strengthen relationships with others
But remember, if you perform Seva yoga to gain these benefits, it is not truly Seva yoga. Seva yoga requires a release of any expectations for a specific result or benefit, simply serving in the name of service for the greater good. Undoubtedly, the benefits will come on their own.
The Top 5 Seva Yoga Practices
Yoga is so much more than an exercise or physical practice, and Seva yoga truly displays this depth. Seva yoga is primarily a practice of the heart and mind, but there are certain practices that you can engage in to deepen this inner state and connect with the essence of Seva yoga.
Popular Seva yoga practices include:
- Volunteer Work
- Dedicating and Surrendering Your Actions to a Higher Power
- Mantra Chanting During Volunteer Work
- Donating to Charity
- Teaching a Free or Donation Based Yoga Class
At the core of all Seva yoga practices is developing a mindset of selfless love for others and the world. With this simple shift in your consciousness, every step and action can become Seva yoga by dedicating each breath to something greater than yourself.
How to Practice Seva Yoga
Seva yoga is quite simple to engage in, and the essence of this practice is to volunteer your time and energy in the service of others or something greater than yourself. A foundational component of engaging in Seva yoga is the philosophical belief that we are all deeply interconnected into a beautiful tapestry of life, unifying us into one supreme consciousness.
When you understand this deep interconnection, selfless service becomes second nature, and you release any desire for recognition or praise. Selfless service requires a whole heart and deep compassion in every action. In whatever way you feel called to help others and support the world, find a way to engage in Seva yoga in any capacity that feels aligned with your heart and soul.
Start Seva Yoga at Home
Seva yoga can be done anywhere, and there is no need to go to a yoga studio to engage in this practice. So, if you can’t make it to a Seva yoga studio, or perhaps you want to try Seva yoga at home first, check out these follow-along videos below to learn more about this practice!
Karma as Yoga is True Devotion
Linga Seva | The Meaning of Seva – Sadhguru
Karma Yoga – Selfless Service, Ego Taming Meditation, Bhakti Yoga
Seva is the Best Way
Honestly, you can engage in Seva yoga at any moment. All you need to do is connect with the love in your heart and engage in an action that helps someone else.
Seva Yoga FAQs
Is Seva the Same as Karma Yoga?
Seva is a form of karma yoga that emphasizes the devotional aspects of karma yoga. Karma yoga is the yoga of action, and Seva yoga also involves action through volunteer service. But the main difference is that Seva yoga emphasizes engaging in each action with no desire for material gain and as a purely selfless action.
How is Seva Yoga Part of Life?
Seva yoga reminds us that the world is much bigger than our small circle and that we are deeply interconnected. Seva yoga can be incorporated into every moment of your life through a dedication to helping others and a devotion to engaging in work that is bigger than yourself, all while maintaining a heart and mind full of love and compassion.
Why Should We Do Seva?
The practice of Seva yoga connects us with something greater than ourselves and this individual life. Over time, the boundaries between yourself and others begin to soften, and you can realize the greater truth that we are all one. Seva yoga also inherently brings joy into the world and can help others awaken to the reality of life and improve their well-being as well as your own.
Important: Check with your doctor before trying Seva Yoga for the first time if you have any injury, illness, pain, or you are pregnant.