All types of traditional yoga are spiritual in some regard, but Bhakti yoga is the most entwined with an actual belief system, forming one of the classical paths to Moksha (more on this in a moment) in Hinduism.
The defining feature of Bhakti yoga is the focus on a personal deity, making it a prototypical form that paved the way for the various religion-optimized forms of yoga gaining popularity at the moment, such as Christian yoga.
It’s a fascinating practice that can bring many benefits, which is why we’re shining a light on Bhakti yoga in today’s post.
What Does Bhakti Mean?
Bhakti is a Sanskrit word derived from the etymological root bhaj, meaning to divide, partake, participate, belong to, or share. It has also evolved to mean devotion, homage, love, faith, and salvation.
This type of yoga is all about utilizing your thoughts and emotions to develop love and a feeling of oneness toward all things. In short, it’s the ultimate celebration of nature, a means of paying gratitude to the divine for all we receive as part of creation.
Hindus believe that doing so paves the way to Moksha, which we’ll discuss next.
What Is Moksha?
Moksha is an important concept in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Generally speaking, it refers to many types of emancipation, and within the context of Bhakti yoga, it’s a similar notion to enlightenment.
It means self-realization and self-actualization — a complete departure from ignorance where the self is concerned. In Hinduism, this is the most important of the Puruṣārtha, comprising Moksha, Dharma, Artha, and Kama.
These discrete categories all provide a different reason for being, but self-knowledge is the primary goal within the Hindu faith.
What Sort Of Poses Are There In Bhakti Yoga?
Okay, brace yourself, because we’re about to blow your mind… There are no poses in Bhakti yoga. In fact, there is very little motion involved with this ancient form of yoga at all.
Bhakti yoga is all about flexing the spirit, mind, and emotions in order to reach a state of pure love and devotion. With this in mind, it’s more akin to what Westerners understand as meditation than it is to Westernized yoga.
But unlike secular meditation, Bhakti yoga never really stops. Strict practitioners are constantly engaging with the principles of Bhakti.
How Do You Practice Bhakti Yoga?
We’ve some good news for you — You don’t need to spend any money to dive into your Bhakti yoga adventure. You won’t need any expensive athleisure wear and you won’t need a mat. Just get comfortable and allow your capacity to love expand.
Some may choose to use a classic cross-legged meditation pose, but this isn’t strictly necessary. What matters is that you’re able to focus your mind and energy on developing the unconditional love associated with this form of yoga.
Wear whatever makes you feel relaxed and happy. Something loose and airy is probably your best bet, as you don’t want any physical discomfort as you hone your thoughts on your personal deity.
Once you’re ready to begin, you’ll utilize the following three pillars of Bhakti yoga.
- Kirtan — Describes a devotional chanting that helps you focus on the divine
- Japa — The repeating of simple mantras
- Devotion to the divine — Cultivate your love for all of creation
The first two Bhakti practices are prayer-like, and they set the scene for the deep meditative journey you’re about to embark upon. But remember, Bhakti yoga is a path you walk, not a sequence of events.
Sitting down to meditate in a Bhakti fashion once in a while does not a Bhakti yogi make.
What “Deity” Should I Focus On During Bhakti Yoga?
Traditionally, Hindus would focus their attention on one of their gods when practicing Bhakti yoga, such as Ganesha, Radha, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Parvati, Shakti, or Durga, but you can bend this yoga form to suit your own religion.
Christians, for example, might think of Jesus Christ or the Christian god. And don’t worry if you’re not into organized religion, as you can make anything that means a lot to you the subject of your meditation.
It could be your spouse, your child, your parents, yourself… anything goes! This is your spiritual time and you decide what you feel spiritual about.
The 9 Principles Of Bhakti Yoga
To get the most out of Bhakti yoga, acknowledge the following principles:
Svarana is a consumption phase of traditional Bhakti yoga that typically involves the studying of ancient scriptures, poems, or stories. It’s known as the listening stage.
Known as the singing phase, Kirtana takes things a step further. Here, you’ll chant to and about the divinities in your life, singing their praises.
This is one of the most interesting phases, as it reminds us that Bhakti yoga isn’t really an act that you do once in a while, but a state of being to be maintained inevitably.
Smarana is known as the remembering phase. In other words, if you are following the path of Bhakti yoga, you’ll always strive to keep the divine at the very forefront of your mind.
It’s one thing to feel love, but quite another to show it, which is why the Padasevana stage of Bhakti yoga involves service. When acknowledging this phase, you’re attempting to spread the love you feel for all by taking action for the betterment of those around you.
You might choose to volunteer in your community, donate to charity, or simply extend love and care to people.
Archana is the ritual worship stage, which is where your personal deity comes into action.
Vandana is the prayer phase, an attempt to dissolve the ego and celebrate the fact that you are equal with all creation. Through prayer, you confront the fractured nature of individualism and recognize the truth of oneness.
Submit to the will of the divine over yourself and you will be successfully acting out the Dasya principle, which can be summed up as an unquestioning loyalty to the divine powers and love.
Sakhya involves mentally and actively cultivating kinship with the divine, whether your personal divinity be a god, nature, or all things.
And finally, you will reach Atmanivedana, which is a total surrender of the self to the divine.
With no physical exercise involved, Bhakti doesn’t get the attention it deserves in the Western world, but it might just be one of the most beneficial forms of yoga out there.
Focused entirely on love and devotion, it may not transform your body, but it can completely transform your life, so we highly recommend trying to incorporate at least a few Bhakti yoga principles into your mindfulness practice.
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