Yoga, excellence in action?

In Bhagavad Gita, The Song of the Soul, yoga is described as excellence, or skill, in action: ‘yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam’ (2.50). Despite how simple this phrasing sounds, these three terms denote one of the most nuanced and fundamental concepts to yogic living.

Teaching one of my first yoga classes in Goa.

When I first heard ‘excellence in action’, I admit that my first thoughts were, ‘Oh, so yoga must make you fitter, smarter, or just better’. The word ‘excellence’, after all, reminded me of external goals and of my own competitive nature.

Yet, as I have since discovered, nothing in a yogic text has a single, literal meaning. All quotes and aphorisms that we might cherrypick denote a broader philosophical and experiential context that is learned by osmosis over many years.

As my yoga practice has matured, I have learned what yogah karmasu kausalam means beyond external definitions of excellence. My interpretation will continue to evolve throughout my life but the time feels right to share my current progress.

Yoga is excellence in action not because you, {insert name}, become excellent. On the contrary, yoga is excellence in action because excellence is enacted through you.

Let’s remember that ‘yoga’ (from ‘to yoke’) means ‘union’. So excellence in yogic terms cannot be about individual achievement. Yoga is a practice wherein ‘you’ become a channel for something greater, something excellent.

Such transcendence occurs when knowledge, will and action align. This alignment can only happen, in turn, when the mental chatter and desires of daily life are quietened.

For example, when a parent manages to lift an inhuman weight in order to save their child trapped beneath, they are not operating in ‘ego-mode’. In that moment, their own ‘I-am-ness’ has dissolved and their purpose manifests as a single-pointed channel of energy.

Or, when a spiritual guide speaks, they are not speaking from a first-person perspective in the regular sense; they are drawing on an infinite well of intuition.

Further, the spiritual guide may not have prior knowledge of the messages that flow from or through her mouth. Indeed, her words of healing are often spontaneous. For the excellence that she is enacting is ‘in action’.

In sum, yoga is an intuitive process of responding to the present moment with selfless clarity.

Published by Lucy Sabin

I'm a designer who enjoys creating websites that are professional and bright with a clear message.

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