Yoga Exercises

Why Seva Doesn’t Mean “Selfless Service” to Hala Khouri

When I used to be a brand new instructor, I volunteered to train yoga to teen women at a Boys & Girls Clubs location in Venice, California. In addition to yoga, we’d additionally do artwork tasks and speak about points that have an effect on younger adults, reminiscent of low vanity. Negative physique picture had been an enormous wrestle for me as a teen, and I’ve typically considered how studying yoga again then would have helped me regulate my feelings and reframe my insecurities. So, I made physique picture the theme of one in every of our courses and devised an artwork undertaking to assist the women honor and love their our bodies simply as they have been. Armed with poster board, pastels, and stacks of magazines containing inspirational messages about self-love, I opened the category with some questions I assumed would segue to my deliberate undertaking: “How do you feel about your body?” “Do you ever try to change the way your body looks?” 

The women—who have been all totally different sizes and shapes—solely stared at me with confused expressions after which unanimously responded with statements like, “I love my body;” “My body’s amazing.” I used to be shocked and embarrassed that I’d are available appearing like an skilled on an expertise that was totally different from my very own. I rapidly scrapped the artwork challenge and went straight to training yoga. 

Looking again, I acknowledge the deep impression these women had on me. They confirmed me the significance of setting out to assist others, not from a spot of distance or separation, however moderately by making a reference to individuals, getting interested in their expertise, and staying open earlier than deciding what to supply. It’s a lesson that comes to bear for me on a regular basis.

See additionally Hala Khouri’s Trauma-Informed Yoga Teaching Path

For occasion, a number of years in the past I used to be requested to supply counseling and knowledge on trauma to a gaggle of gang interventionists, all former gang members who had struggled with habit, violence, and incarceration. Their life expertise was utterly overseas to me. I grew up in an upper-middle class, white group the place individuals who struggled with medicine have been despatched to rehab, not thrown in jail. Most individuals in my group had secure jobs and felt protected by regulation enforcement, not focused by them. So, earlier than beginning counseling or providing self-care methods, I knew I wanted to pay attention greater than I spoke. Their tales of resilience, perseverance, ache, forgiveness, and religion have been unimaginable. But I by no means would have heard them if I’d positioned myself as an outdoor professional. 

I typically refer to this quote from Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal elder and social-justice activist in Australia: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” When Watson stated that our liberation is sure, I consider she was talking to the very fact that nobody is free till everyone seems to be free. How can I benefit from the privileges afforded to me figuring out that not everybody else has the identical privileges? Or worse, that a few of my privileges come at the price of the well-being of others? It can really feel overwhelming to take into consideration this stuff, but when I would like to proceed my seva work, it’s mandatory. It has additionally led me to redefine, or a minimum of reinterpret, the phrase seva

While the direct translation of seva is “selfless service,” I’ve come to understand that there isn’t any such factor. It’s very important that we let our interactions with individuals contact into our personal vulnerability. Otherwise, we inadvertently create separation and even a hierarchy—which foolishly implies we’re the one with one thing to supply. True service is about appearing in a method that acknowledges the humanity in every of us, regardless of our variations— a approach that acknowledges the ache and the power we share and sees everybody as deserving entry to primary human wants. Ultimately, it’s our mutuality that may permit us all to heal.

See additionally Seva Champions: 14 Selfless Service Leaders

About Our Expert
Hala Khouri is a yoga instructor and somatic counselor in Venice, California, and co-founder of Off the Mat Into the World.


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