Karma Yoga

Don't worry, be happy and grateful! Discover the true essence of yoga at Suryalila, home to Frog Lotus Yoga International Teacher Training. By Vidya Heisel

Reading time: 4 minutes

Understanding and practicing Karma Yoga is life-changing. It helps us to adopt the right relationship to life and to everything that happens. It is one of the four traditional branches of yoga and the first branch that we should endeavour to practice, as it provides a strong foundation for the other three branches (the paths of devotion, meditation and wisdom).

As unfolded in the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, Karma Yoga refers to the Path of Action and teaches us how to act freely and harmoniously in the world. We are encouraged to perform our duties in life selflessly, without being attached to the outcomes of our actions. This is easier said than done, as most of us only perform actions in order to get the results we want. However, when we always strive to gratify our desires in life, frustration, disappointment and even victimisation (why did this happen to me?) are inevitable.

Karma Yoga encourages us to embrace and surrender to whatever is unfolding, trusting deeply that it couldn’t have been any other way and that everything is exactly as it is meant to be. We learn to navigate life's curve balls with equanimity, recognising that everything is impermanent and subject to change. Even when things are challenging and difficult, we take them in our stride, without resistance or aversion. By embracing what is, we are able to find peace in every situation, cultivating a sense of trust and surrender within ourselves and the magic carpet ride of life.

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Our actions alone are within our control, whilst the outcomes are influenced by so many other factors, which are beyond our control. In the poignant words of John Lennon: “Life is what happens, when you are busy planning other things”. Through this practice of surrendering to what is, we free ourselves from worry, and fear.

Karma Yoga also encourages us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, towards everyone and everything. We should behave with respect and gratitude towards our parents. Even if we think they did a bad job of parenting, we should be grateful they brought us into the world and took care of us to the best of their abilities. We need first to find forgiveness for their perceived failures and then cultivate gratitude towards them.

We should be profoundly grateful to all our mentors and teachers and for the teachings we have received. We are who we are and we know what we know, thanks to the wisdom of our teachers.

Finally, Karma Yoga teaches us to care for our environment. It reminds us of our interconnectedness with nature and the responsibility we have towards preserving and protecting it. Caring for the planet is an expression of gratitude towards the Earth.

Vidya Heisel is director of Frog Lotus Yoga International Teacher Training Programmes (, Suryalila Retreat Centre ( and Danyadara Permaculture Project (

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