Getting Familiar with Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan

ramaXhanumanXbalMost of us western yogis came to learn about yoga through Hatha yoga, the yoga that uses the body as a vehicle toward self-realization. The seed is planted. We grow stronger, more flexible, we start to see those attributes manifest in the mind as well as the body, and it all feels really good!  A beautiful progression, in yoga known as adikhara, occurs when we start to look beyond our mats and explore what else comprises this vast science known as yoga. Perhaps we buy a copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Perhaps we learn about and begin to practice seva, or selfless service to a greater good, often in the form of community service. Perhaps through our hatha yoga practice we begin to get that occasional and blissful glimpse of union with something Divine guiding us, and we want to experience that feeling of connectedness more often. Bhakti yoga is a way to do that and to take your yoga practice as well as your practice of simply being human to a deeper, more profound and joyful level. Bhakti is the yoga of the heart. 

The word Bhakti has its roots in the Sanskrit word Bhaj, which means “to share in” or “to be a part of.” Often Bhakti is translated to mean “devotion” because the essence of Bhakti Yoga is exactly that. The word runs even deeper, however, and can be better translated as “participation.” When we practice Bhakti, we participate, we are directly experiencing being a part of whatever it is that we call Divine.

Ways of Practicing Bhakti Yoga
You can jump right onto this blissful path to becoming a “Bhakta” in many ways. One is to keep practicing hatha yoga and its various types of breath-work and meditations, because all forms of yoga work together to help you experience this deep connection to Spirit. Another way is to work on the development and evolution of these attributes: surrender, acceptance, openness, embracement of change, respect and caring for others, faith or trust in a divine presence–also known in yoga as shraddha, non-expectation, heightened awareness, and a gentle remembrance of the Big Picture.

In my class I often couple that last one with the remembrance to “not sweat the small stuff” because I believe we all constantly need to hear that gentle reminder. Developing community with spiritually minded people is also part of this path,  known as satsang.  Having a teacher you trust and continue to learn from is another part. Finally, and one of the most joyous aspects of the path of Bhakti, is the participation in kirtan, or collective chanting and singing.

Kirtan is so special that I kirtanthink it best to explain it through quotes by kirtan leaders and people who really illuminate the yoga world and our experience of yoga:

“Kirtan is for all people. There are no experts, no beginners. The practice itself is the teacher, guiding us to ourselves. Kirtan allows us to enter into a mystery world-a world where all the logic of our minds, and all of the conditioning are left aside.With Kirtan, we create a temple inside the altar of our hearts, a place of refuge, a place of love, and a place of just being.” -Jai Uttal

“Kirtan is singing of God’s name with feeling. Such singing and prayer has a benign effect on both the physical and subtle bodies. It is an excellent method of soothing the nerves and directing emotions to a positive goal. Kirtan Mantras are in Sanskrit, the most ancient of human languages. It is also known as “Devanagari” (language of the Gods). Sound, made up of vibrations, is energy. A Sanskrit Mantra is a mystical energy encased is a sound structure. To release the energy from the sound, we learn to repeat it at a certain rhythm. When you start repeating a Mantra, it creates a specific thought pattern. The energy literally manifests itself.” -Swami Sivananda

kirtan_party_big-524x351“In the olden days, it was easy to sit and meditate because there was nothing to distract you. Now, the moment you close your eyes, there will be ten garbage trucks around. When you walk around, you see so many distractions to feed your senses. Not only is the air polluted, but the entire atmosphere, even the thought forms are polluted—people think in terms of amassing wealth through duping, cheating and mugging. So, it’s very difficult not to get distracted. That is why the easiest practice for this day and age is to repeat the names of God. Chanting doesn’t require a quiet place or a particular kind of dress or a particular type of life. Bhakti Yoga is the easiest practice, because we begin with love.” -Swami Satchidananda

It is said that a person can achieve “Moksha”, liberation from the cycle of birth and death, by remembering God in the final moment of life. To do this, however, one must practice until the Divine Name arises in the mind without effort. Music, Bhajan, Kirtan and chanting are “Sahaja Yoga”, an inspiring way to practice remembering God throughout life, and to realize the divine forms of God that reside in each note.” -Sargam and Suman Shah

Scott-and-Shanti-250x250“Kirtan” is the meditative chanting of ancient mantras enabling us to connect to the divine within.” – Timothy Das

An Evening of Bhakti 4/28 4-7pm
If this at all whets your appetite to explore Bhakti, join us following the wrap of 5 Point Film Festival, for an Evening of Bhakti.  The evening will begin with a flowing yoga class led by Deva and accompanied by the live music of Boulder yogis Scott and Shanti Medina.  Following the heart opening hatha practice will be a lively, heart opening kirtan with Scott and Shanti, and all you need to do is look at their picture to know that the evening will be full of beautiful energy.   We really hope to see you there!