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In yoga, the four paths—karma, bhakti, raja, and jnana—are all supposed to lead to the same place: the ultimate union. Karma yoga is the path through action, the idea that selfless service and dedicated work leads to discovering the ultimate truth.

If you’re looking to deepen your yoga practice, “Karma Yoga” may apply to you in a pretty practical way. Perhaps you’re eager to take more classes, but strapped for cash. Unbeknownst to many, yoga studios across the country offer “Karma Yoga” programs as a way to work shifts in exchange for free classes.

These shifts are low-key, requiring an average of 3-8 hours of your time per week. Your job as a “Karmi” is to check people in to classes maintain the studio through simple chores, though it varies depending on the place.

These programs are a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the studio, to gain an intimate connection with teachers, students, and the different styles of yoga.

My time in the studio shifted my understanding of yoga from a physical practice to a more all-encompassing way of life. As much as I savored the feeling of losing myself in the asanas, I often didn’t carry my practice off the mat. Sure, I would feel that “yoga high” upon leaving class, where I felt floaty and peaceful. But it was quickly broken with something as simple as a late subway. Organizing the quiet studio at night after everyone left gave me a different kind of zen. Hearing the teachers interpret stories from the Bhagavad Gita opened my mind in new ways. And getting the chance to be exposed to so many different styles of yoga I wasn’t used to definitely expanded my practice.

My experience as a Karmi differed from what I thought, but I’m so glad that it did. Who knew that the path of service really is so blissful? I have a full-time job, but willingly take out the trash, deal with laundry, and clean the studio—and feel happy doing so! And if you have a little extra time in your schedule, and an eagerness to meet new people and learn more without breaking the bank, I highly encourage you to find a program near you.

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