This week, I taught on the word "karma."
Karma is one of the yoga words that many of us are familiar with. The popular understanding of karma is the adage, "what goes around, comes around." In other words, every action has a consequence, and if it's a bad action, you'll get your comeuppance.
Karma, however, is not the universal justice we are all hoping it might be. Plenty of people do bad things and suffer no consequences. Rather, karma is a model of predictability that allows us to exist in a relatively secure way. We know that a green light means go and a red light means stop, and if that wasn't consistently true it would be extremely problematic.
Understanding the ways in which we are predictable is very useful to us yogis, particularly when we are looking to evolve aspects of our practice or ourselves. Development is often stymied by an unwillingness to explore that which is unfamiliar, whether that aversion is conscious or not. When we attempt something new, say a new way of aligning our shoulders or modulating the breath, we are disrupting the predictability of our own patterns. There is, of course, no guarantee of success, but failure is absolutely certain if we do nothing new.
We can, of course, appreciate the pleasures of familiarity, but we must also learn to become aware of when our habits are becoming more confining than comforting. Karma, then, is the invitation to inquire deeply into our limiting behaviors, movements, and ways of being. In discovering our own constraints, we can ask what is needed to shake things up and courageously enter into new possibility.