I find that the longer I practice, the longer I teach, and the more I meditate, the more I am drawn to bhakti yoga. maybe I should say that because of all of the above, my own bhakti has grown exponentially. I call myself Kali’s girl and when I was at a Krishna Das kirtan, he chanted the word “Kali” in a Durga mantra and at that moment it literally felt like I was hit right between my eyebrows and the tears started to flow. that’s bhakti. mantra chanting and kirtan are forms of bhakti yoga. I know a devout American Murugan bhakta who has never done one asana in his life, but he is a bhakti yogi.
I believe that bhakti, for the most part, is missing in Americanized yoga, at least in most of the classes I attend. I know that even chanting the single sound of OM can scare some people away from yoga — I’ve seen students leave classes if the teacher chants. I always open and close my classes with meditation and at the end recite the Four Immeasurables and chant OM MANI PEDME HUM. I would not be true to my heart if I did not teach this way.
So I give you the website Bhakti Collective. The Bhakti Collective is “composed of persons of various backgrounds with a common interest in bhakti, India’s tradition of devotional yoga. It is a non-profit organization based in New York, which serves as a medium for the exploration and sharing of the culture, philosophy and practice of bhakti.”
The Bhakti Collective has many interesting articles including this one, a critique on a Yoga Journal article about bhakti. in it, Kaustubha Das quotes Dr. Robert Svoboda’s feelings about bhakti in western yoga:
“Some Western yogis dabble in bhakti yoga through an occasional prayer or kirtan. But if you’re a serious practitioner looking to find union with the Divine, a more rigorous practice is in order.” Svoboda says the path of devotion involves total dedication and surrender.
Svoboda agrees that it’s good to sing bhajana (Sanskirt hymns) to get into a new space. But he cautions against thinking you can really engage in bhakti yoga by occasionally joining in a kirtan. “That in itself won’t be sufficient to have a transformative effect that will penetrate into the deepest and darkest parts of your being”, he says.
“I don’t think most people in the yoga community have a concept of the degree of emotional depth and intensity and texture that is necessary for bhakti yoga really to flower”.