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Karma Yoga for a Cause

Updated: Jan 16


“Service to others is enormously beneficial, as well as powerfully soul-satisfying.”

~ Steve Cronin, Namaspa Foundation Teacher

at the Deschutes County Jail


“I have grown as result of connecting directly with what I am most passionate about. The power of service work in an area I love is a very powerful tool.”

~ Andrea Wordhouse, Namaspa Foundation Teacher

at addiction recovery programs


Across diverse religions and spiritual paths, it is common to find aspects and branches of teachings centered around the power of selfless action and seva, or service.


The path of karma yoga is one example. Finding and following dharma is another. And many, if not most, churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, ashrams, spiritual retreat and meditation centers, and other places of worship have numerous ways and avenues for individuals and groups of people to volunteer their time in service of their specific community and/or the community-at-large.


This month, we are highlighting and celebrating the incredibly generous seva and karma yoga of the teachers who instruct out in the community for the Namaspa Foundation – and next month, we’ll share stories and testimonials of participants in some of the classes. These members of our teaching team offer 15 yoga and mindfulness classes every week to diverse individuals across our community:


  • in schools (Deven Sisler & Lauren Davey);

  • through addiction recovery programs (Andrea Wordhouse and Anneliese Sharpe);

  • at the juvenile detention center (Gina Murphy);

  • at Deschutes County Jail – classes for both those experiencing incarceration, as well as jail employees (Steve Cronin, Nancy Lumpkin, Cathay Lawgates, PJ Frichtman, & Bruce Morris);

  • at homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters (Jared Eisenhauer, Deven Sisler, & Heather Kellner);

  • for veterans and their families (Stephanie Lewis);

  • at affordable housing developments (Heather Kellner);

  • and at retirement centers (Zia Estrella).


It isn’t possible to summarize karma yoga in a few words or short sentences, as it is an entire path of awakening, unto itself, within yogic philosophy and teachings. At its core, however, karma yoga as a way of life or as a spiritual path is about action. Action from the heart. Action rooted in regard for others – an individual, a group or community, a nation, humanity, the Earth, all of Life – rather than personal benefit. Action as a devotional offering to the Divine.


In our modern times, it might not be that surprising to consider engaging in spiritual work through aligned, devotional, selfless action. In fact, many of you, our readers and community, most likely engage in some form of karma yoga on a regular or semi-regular basis – for example, through your involvement with an organization or cause you’re passionate about; through your kids’ school; or even through less formal avenues, like the ways you care for your family and loved ones, the way you show up at work and in life, or the ways you take small, maybe almost-invisible actions that ultimately make a big difference (picking up trash while out on the hiking trail; helping clean blocks in the studio after a good, sweaty practice; secretly paying for the person’s drink behind you in line at the coffee shop).


But you can also probably imagine easily how, in ancient times, amidst environments and in cultures where many people were pursuing pathways and practices toward enlightenment and liberation through sitting with gurus and teachers, sitting meditation to cultivate stillness and silence inside, and extreme ascetic practices, it would have been quite a different choice, paradigm, philosophy, and path to pursue enlightenment and liberation through action.


On Ram Dass’ foundation website, the Love Serve Remember Foundation, transcripts from his teachings on karma yoga say the following:


“In the simplest sense you could say that Karma Yoga is using your Karma as a way of coming into union with God. It’s using the stuff of your life. It is usually used as the way in which you do work in the world. And whether or not that work in the world is a vehicle for spiritual awakening. In books like the Bhagavad Gita Karma Yoga is specified as Krishna saying to Arjuna “Do what you do, but offer the fruits of it to me.” That’s what Karma Yoga is. So in that sense, it has a devotional quality to it … Karma Yoga really has that you serve others as a way of serving God. You serve others as a way of putting flowers at the feet of God, of honoring God. And you do seva or service as a technique of doing that … Karma Yoga is the taking of the things you do every day with other people, of service, things like that, and making those all into an offering. And so it’s an attitude that one has … So, the way we are going to talk about it is the act of doing service. And what is the relation of the service you do or the task you do, and what is the relation of that to your coming to God.”


Steve Cronin teaches a class for men at the Deschutes County Jail in Bend on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Steve graduated from his 200-hour yoga teacher training in March 2020, and one of the reasons he went through Namaspa’s YTT was specifically so that he could instruct in the local jail through the Namaspa Foundation. Steve shares: “As a practitioner at Namaspa, I heard of an effort to bring yoga to women in the local jail. I let Namaspa know that if there were ever an opportunity to bring yoga to the men in the jail, I wanted to participate. So, for a time, I participated by demonstrating poses for the men’s classes. This experience was pivotal in my decision to complete YTT. I appreciate and love how Namaspa is tapping the strength and knowledge of its members to give back to the wider community.” About his experience teaching at the jail, Steve comments: “Teaching yoga is a practice unto itself. The requirement to lead, to speak, to inspire takes focused discipline and persistence. And doing the work of facilitating growth for disadvantaged and underserved members of our community is living the practice of yoga.”


Andrea Wordhouse teaches men, ages 19-25, at a local addiction recovery program. She has completed 200- and 300-hour yoga teacher training programs. Andrea shares about her motivation for teaching at recovery programs through the Namaspa Foundation: “my inspiration and motivation is my own recovery and the role Namaspa played in my early recovery and has continued to play in maintaining long-term sobriety. I love connecting with the kids, and I have sympathy as a mom; but I have empathy as an alcoholic.” About the mission and work of the Namaspa Foundation, Andrea comments that “the classes we offer become vital to the success of someone struggling in their life in general, or someone in recovery, specifically. Teaching them tools and an easier, softer way becomes a lifetime change opportunity, as well.”


In receiving some initial questionnaires and testimonials back from participants from both Steve’s and Andrea’s classes – which we will share in our December blog – it is clear that both Steve and Andrea are greatly appreciated by their students. And not just what they do or how they teach yoga and mindfulness, but who they are, their genuine presence with the students, and how they show up and teach in and from their hearts.


Inspired to learn more about the mission and work of the Namaspa Foundation, or to get involved? Here are some avenues:


The Foundation’s 15 weekly classes led by these 14 amazing teachers are made possible by the generosity of community members like you who make one-time donations, or become monthly contributors we call “sustaining supporters. We are mindful that at this time of year, many of you will receive asks from multiple incredible organizations making a big difference in our community and beyond. We appreciate so very much and so very deeply any amount you feel inspired to give to support us in continuing to steward and forward the mission and vision of the Namaspa Foundation.


Additionally, although most of the Foundation’s classes are closed to the public, a couple are open to a bit broader participation:

  • Are you a veteran or a family member of a veteran? Join us for “Tranquil Yoga for Veterans and their Families” weekly on Saturday mornings, 9:00-10:00am, at Snap Fitness on Reed Market in Bend. This is a free class, made possible through the Foundation. We ask that participants be 6 years old, and up.

  • Join us for a beginners chair yoga class Wednesday, November 1st, 1:00-2:00pm. This class is open to the public, is donation-based, and is a fundraiser for both the Salvation Army Foundation and the Namaspa Foundation.

Lastly, we want to share about our “Fresh Start” pass for eligible members of the community. Since 2019, hundreds of individuals have received 45 days of free yoga, including folks in recovery, folks returning home after being in jail, and folks receiving services from local homeless and/or domestic violence shelters. If you or someone you know could benefit from this opportunity, email us at namaspayoga@gmail.com.


Thank you for reading, for supporting in any/all ways you can, and for spreading the word about the work of the Namaspa Foundation to individuals who might be wanting or needing some aspect of what we offer, or to organizations who we might be able to work with.

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