Karma Yoga & My Thai Massage Epiphany

I have finally reached my last weekend of freedom during my Yoga Teacher Training program. We have been in class about 13 hours per day, which I have to add to my personal 1-hour workout at 5 a.m. Needless to say, studying philosophy, yoga sutras, muscles and bones all day has been a bit of a departure from my regular life. The concept of Karma Yoga has played a large theme during our studies as of late. I realize that my understanding of karma before this experience was extremely limited. Karma Yoga has five essential elements:

1.   Do your job or action to best of your ability.

2.   Don’t compare yourself to others.

3.   Do your job/action happily.

4.   Be in the present.

5.   Don’t get attached to the results of your action/job.

The application of Karma Yoga in modern society can have such an intense impact. Of course it’s easy to understand why you want to be happy and in the present moment while you are in the middle of action, but the concept of doing action without getting attached to the results? Wow. My attachment to results has dictated most of the decisions that I’ve made in my life. Well, except for the decision to come to yoga teacher training. I decided that I wanted to go to teacher training without the expectation of teaching. I told myself I would decide in due time if I actually wanted to use my yoga education knowledge to teach others. Beyond this one exception, the entire reason that I have obtained so many certifications, degrees, and accolades was so that I could win the acceptance, respect and admiration of others. In fact, many times I did not pursue knowledge simply because obtaining the knowledge would make me happy. Although I do love to learn, I often chose the path of certification so that I could list the knowledge in my professional credentials. I didn’t think about obtaining the knowledge because it was the best application of me doing my job in the present moment and to the best of my ability. This personal example goes to show how much attachment can be a driving force in some people.

This last week has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. I have had moments of intense insight paired with feeling of sadness, loneliness and anger. One of the other students mentioned that it’s natural to have such extreme emotions in our extremely peaceful environment since we have no worries or fears on a daily basis. But it did feel weird to experience such an array of emotions on this residential yoga retreat. I did not experience anything like this when I participated in the vipasana retreat at Spirit Rock in April. I think dealing with the world and internal and external expectations is much more difficult than solely dealing with the inner workings of the mind. However, I realize over and over again that the universe gives us everything that we need.

I was on an emotional roller coast because of two things:

  1. The yoga program is much more based in philosophy and memorization than I expected, and
  2. I am not receiving any specialized instruction based on my body type.

I’ll start with the first point. Essentially, I did not research the teacher training program prior to signing up and arriving on the first day of class. I was so busy working on my company, that I selected the program based on the fact that I know someone else that participated in the program. I didn’t really ask the person about the structure of the program or if she would recommend it to me. All I knew was that the person was in really good shape and can easy do a lot of the complicated asanas. That was enough for me to select this yoga program in a country on the other side of the world. I realize now that her personal physical practice has nothing to do with the program. Also, because of the program, I know that intense physical practice has nothing really to do with the foundational principles of yoga either. But, that’s another rabbit hole.

My second issue is my body type. I have always had body issues due to my hourglass shape. My mother had dreamed of me being a ballerina, but my curves prevented me from obtaining the perfect lines necessary for advanced practice. I eventually quit studying dance because all of my stick-figure cohorts teased me about my shape and classical dance was no longer enjoyable. I learned at a young age that I would never be really thin and I would have to find another type of physical activity where my body shape would be more appropriate. I moved to gymnastics, tap-dancing, modern dance, and cheerleading eventually. It was really easy for me to start all of these activities because I was extremely flexible and could easily do any type of advanced pose that was based on this characteristic. On the other hand, I ended up being too tall, too big, too curvy, too ‘me’ to really have the ‘it’ factor and truly become an elite athlete in any of the activities.

I thought that I wouldn’t have to deal with the same issues when it came to yoga. Clearly, I was wrong. I have the same issues that I have always had. I have a big butt, which means that I have big thighs to support it. This means that it’s difficult for me to do a full lotus (padmasana), bull pose (vrasasana) or hams pose (paryankasana) with any kind of grace or skill. I also cannot beautifully show intense back bends. This has been a personal source of self-hatred and self-loathing for me. The other evening I decided to have a pity party. After 20 minutes of my personal pity party, I had to remind myself that the universe makes us all perfect in our own way. I know I can hold my own at any cocktail party or nightclub without any worry or concern.

I know that I love how I look walking down the street or going into the office. I also know that the athletic poses are designed for those who are extremely lean without a curvy shape, so in fact I have been on a quest to defy the laws of physics. But, I did let myself cry for 20 minutes when I finally accepted this fact. After this, I decided to let my feelings go and eat dinner with my new friends. What was ironic was that two of my new friends from Japan stopped me and told me how much my smile and laughter meant to them. They told me that my energy lights up a room and that they were so glad to be able to participate in the program with me. I was sitting there crying in my room 20 minutes before and I walked out to people telling me how I made them happy. They probably didn’t even notice my internal dilemmas. All I could think of was the fact that the universe did a quick interception to let me know that although I was hurt due to my attachment to the outcome of my physical fitness pursuit, I could unknowingly bring peace and joy to others. It’s easy to figure out which element is most important in the grand scheme of things.

Also, every person in the program has taught me something. There was one girl that I thought was racist since she moved her mat or seat every time I sat next to her for the first couple weeks. I decided that it was OK if she felt that way since I was still going to be me regardless of how she acted. I wasn’t going to react anymore to her moving locations. I actually tested her a couple times to see if she would move and every time I purposely moved really close to her she in fact moved as I expected. But after a while, I decided that I didn’t care anymore. I forgot that she was there. After a couple of days of this mindset, she started speaking to me all of a sudden. She began joining my conversation and adding helpful hints to activities. This taught me that getting caught up in perceptions of people is often a huge waste of time. I’m not sure why the events happened the way that they did, but I do know it would be a lot worse if I put any more of my personal energy into trying to figure it out. I think that’s what karma is teaching us. I am here to experience this yogic structure to the best of my ability. I don’t have to do more or less than that. I don’t have to expect anything specific on the other side or use this as another item on my LinkedIn resume. This experience is enough in itself.

Wow, this Thai Massage was amazing!



Keep Your Spirit Open

Live Life Fully

Be Free and Let Go

Don't Live with Fear

The Uphill Climb

Asthma and My Fitness Journey

My Love Hate Relationship with Fun

Karma Yoga & My Thai Massage Epiphany

Thailand Yoga Retirement Journey Conclusion


About: Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, known as the Wealthy Yogi, is a mindful wealth multiplier, business strategist, and author of Budgeting is More Liberation than Limitation. She has developed a 5-step blueprint for mindful money management to show any entrepreneur how to create a stress free wealthy lifestyle. Through her books, programs and retreats, she has helped thousands of entrepreneurs achieve intentional personal success. She is currently booking speaking engagements for corporations and corporate groups. If your company or group has workshops around these topics for your employees, please contact her. 

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