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”.
Get out of your yoga body and get into some bhakti.
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3 thoughts on “bhakti required”
I am also really inspired by Bhakti. I have been chanting for the last 8 years and also have a very solid morning practice where I bring the divine to my altar through offerings of flowers and words. Sometimes I just sit in wonder at the beauty of the morning and the magic of the evening. I used to be an asana junky, but as I get older I just want to feel my heart as much as I can….thanks for sharing this post
“Sometimes I just sit in wonder at the beauty of the morning and the magic of the evening.”>>absolutely! one does not have to bow to a Hindu god or goddess or to Buddha (although I do to both!) — the Divine is also in nature and acknowledging that is bhakti, at least as far as I’m concerned. in fact, that is what turned me on to the eastern wisdom traditions at a very early age….I felt more at peace and one with nature than I ever did inside a western church.
I think that people find their own ways to express bhakti, devotion, and in many cases it can throuh unexpected means. For example, devotion to the present moment or to feelings in the body, or to a mental image are all forms of bhakti that are not easily “observed” by a third-party, such as is the case with a group kirtan. In fact, you can sing kirtan until you are blue in the face but still not be doing so from a place of love and devotion. >>Thanks for writing a great and though provoking post. Bhakti is am important aspect of any yoga practice, and something I hope people (who are now practicing yoga in record numbers in the west) become more aware of as they progress beyond the physical aspects of yoga.