Bhakti yoga school

Everything You Should Know About Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga is one of the main paths of yoga that a practitioner can follow on the path to self-realization and is the most followed path in India. The name comes from the Sanskrit root, bhaj, which means ‘to worship/worship God’. Thus, it is the path of love and devotion. Bhakti is sometimes described as ‘love for love’.

It is also sometimes described as the yoga of the mind/intellect. The concept of Bhakti yoga is described in the sacred Hindu texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. It implies surrender to the Divine or universal Consciousness.

The intention when practicing Bhakti yoga is to dedicate oneself to the Divine that is in everything and thus to realize the union of the individual self with God. It is motivated by a love of God rather than a fear of negative repercussions or punishment, and has been described as the sweetest of yogic paths, as it develops love and acceptance for all beings.

Some Bhakti yogis may worship a specific deity, while others may take the broader approach of devoting themselves to the Divine in all. In Hinduism, there are three main groups of Bhakti yogis who worship specific gods:

  • Shaivists dedicate their worship to Shiva and his family.
  • Vaishnavists dedicate their worship to Vishnu and his avatars.
  • Shaktists dedicate their worship to Durga and Kali.

All three groups have absolute respect for the other groups and their gods while focusing on their own primary gods.

  Bhakti yoga shala


The Bhakti path of yoga is a path of the heart and practitioners may use chants, devotional mantras, prayers, kirtan, and rituals as part of their worship. Historically, this was a more accessible path for women and those of lower castes in Hindu society, for whom the education necessary for the more studious paths of yoga was not readily available.

It is said that achieving union with God through Bhakti yoga requires patience, determination and absolute surrender and devotion to the soul, not just a superficial attempt at worship.


How is Bhakti Yoga currently practiced?


Western yogis today do not necessarily practice devotion to a Hindu deity, a guru or ‘God’ as a patriarchal figure in white robes (although some do). Many Westerners who practice Bhakti yoga tend to connect with a larger idea of ​​the Divine, the Beloved, Spirit, Self, or Source. As Uttal says, ‘Everyone has their own idea or feeling of what God is’.

For many, Bhakti yoga means that everything strikes your heart with beauty, strikes the mark of your heart and inspires you to feel love. When you connect with this universal love, you naturally develop a sense of trust that this benevolent and wise universe provides; relax, and you can’t help but generate positive energy for others.

This is definitely the sweetest of the yoga approaches, and is even more accessible than other yoga modalities, which may explain its growing popularity. In the beginning, western yoga was just a matter of fitness, but more and more we see people discovering this other world of love and devotion.

Bhakti yoga vivekananda

Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion


Bhakti yoga is one of six yoga systems revered throughout history as paths that can lead you to full awareness of your true nature. Other paths to self-realization are hatha yoga (transformation of individual consciousness through a practice that begins in the body); jnana yoga (inner knowledge and vision); karma yoga (skill in action); kriya yoga (ritual action); and raja yoga (the path of eight limbs also known as the classical yoga of Patanjali). These paths are not mutually exclusive, although, for many, one path will resonate more deeply.

These systems overlap: an asana practice (as part of hatha yoga) provides the opportunity to gather and direct the plana (life force) necessary to follow the rigorous path of a true bhakti yogi.

Only when you have removed the obvious obstructions to the circulation of prana from your kosha (body sheaths) will the plana be able to circulate. So, you can collect it, refine it, and sink it deep into your marrow. But in the meantime, getting your prana circulating is a worthwhile goal; although Svoboda thinks that it is not important, and that it may be detrimental to the path of Bhakti, if you get caught in the complicated asana practice, which could deter you from the true goal of knowing your true Self.

Some Western yogis dabble in Bhakti yoga through an occasional prayer or kirtan. But if you are a serious practitioner looking to find a union with the Divine, a more rigorous practice is in order.

Svodoba says that the path of devotion involves total dedication and surrender. It does not identify a person, deity, or object or an idea that Bhakti yogis should devote themselves to. Each individual needs to discover that through whatever process they believe in (a prayer to God or a request to the universe) they can ask for guidance.

Bhakti yoga posturas

You must say, ‘I do not desperately need guidance, and I ask for guidance on what to do, whom to worship, how to worship, and when to worship. I request your permanent direction in my life. And you may have to do it repeatedly, Svodoba says, until you really give up, not just give up superficially. He says that you need determination, patience and a certain desperation to fully surrender to the path of Bhakti.

It seems like a tall order for Westerners, but it is certainly worth a try. If you have an asana practice, practice a little bit of Bhakti every day. If it works for you, stick with it; determination pays off. You have to decide that this path of devotion is what you are going to do, that this is the most important thing for you. Tell yourself that life is short, that death is inevitable. Say to yourself ‘I don’t want to be where I am right now when I die’.


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