• Barbara Newman

My Seva

Part of my 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training was doing a seva project. Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning selfless service and is an important part of a spiritual practice. It’s serving others with no expectation of outcome.

When I started my seva, it was natural to volunteer at Glades Middle School, where I was a speech-language pathologist for eleven years. I was excited to teach yoga to fourteen students. The students were on their mats in a semi-circle for forty minutes as we practiced breathing, poses and relaxation with calm music in the background. Some followed, while others watched. Some listened, some talked. The quiet increased as the class progressed. Guided relaxation stories led to silence. The singing bowl produced peaceful faces. When students described how they felt afterwards, they reported, “happy, good, and peaceful” or gave a thumbs up. The closing activity, a call and response song, promoted harmony, social connection and class cohesion. These yogis regulated their breathing, reduced stress, engaged and focused. Unfortunately this class ended with the closing of school, due to COVID-19.

Wanting to continue my seva project, I started teaching virtual yoga to my sister and her yogi friends. This grew to inviting my cousin and yogi friends from my book club, art class, and high school. The group consisted of people from five states and two continents! I planned each class just as I did when working full time, but it was more inspirational to design a yoga class. I shared poetry and prose, practiced breathing, stretching, sequences, poses, mudras, guided meditation and yoga nidra, while leading these souls to look inward to their mind, body and spirit. Feedback revealed that one of the pieces I read could be life changing. Someone else reported she connected with her inner self. Another expressed appreciation for the journey through relaxation. These long time practicing yogis agreed breath, movement and meditation were needed during CDOVID-19 and were grateful for this gift

Having worked my entire adult life, left time for only a few volunteer activities. Freely offering yoga from my heart allowed me to express my passion for yoga and ultimately teach these beautiful beings to find peace and balance. I let go of outcomes, detached from fears and connected to my authentic self. For me it was about passing on the gift of yoga.

As I reflect upon the two groups, there were many similarities. Teaching yoga to students who struggle to learn and communicate encourages them feel good about themselves and focus, so their minds are open to learning. Switching gears to teach family and friends guides them to shed fears, evolve and be centered. It gave me the opportunity to do yoga with those I love. The best gift was learning from all my students. Seva taught me the joy of giving, teaching, and leading a meaningful practice that improves how people of all ages and learning styles focus and grow, one person at a time.

Barbara Newman


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