What is Bhakti Yoga?

Yoga is so much more than just poses, it is a deeply spiritual path to awakening, and bhakti yoga is one of the primary ways of practice to reach this destination.

Bhakti yoga is one such spiritual practice that moves you off the yoga mat and into your heart, soul, and the world at large. This practice reminds us that there is something greater in this world that we cannot even begin to comprehend.

Yoga is an integral practice in the religion of Hinduism, and bhakti yoga is one of the primary paths connecting yoga with other Hindu practices. The word yoga means union, and ultimately this union refers to the unification of the individual soul with the supreme soul. There are many ways to reach this unification, and one of those ways is through devotional practices toward this supreme soul.

But although bhakti yoga is greatly informed by Hinduism, it in no way implies that you need to convert or leave your religious traditions behind. Bhakti yoga can teach all people in any religion how to connect with their own form of God or a higher power in a way that suits them best. It is uniquely non-dogmatic and open, allowing each person to connect with divinity in the way they feel most strongly.

Definition of Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga or bhakti marga is the spiritual path of yoga focused on devotion to a higher power. The word bhakti in Sanskrit comes from the root word “bhaj,” which means to serve, worship, adore, or honor, referring to the devotional practices of yoga towards God or the divine.

Whether you refer to it as the universe, cosmic consciousness, higher power, divine, God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, or any other name, the path is the same in bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga emphasizes a deep spiritual surrender to your higher power, and it is a practice that extends far beyond the yoga mat.

Although you can certainly bring bhakti yoga into your physical yoga practice, bhakti yoga is primarily experienced through meditation, chanting, scriptural study, worship, prayer, and in the small moments of daily life. Bhakti yoga is not just a practice; it is a state of being.

The main ancient text of bhakti yoga is the Narada Bhakti Sutra, written by the sage Narada around the 12th century CE. This text describes the importance of renunciation, self-surrender, divine love, ethical virtue, and worship of God, ultimately explaining how this path is the highest goal of human life.

Benefits of Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga is primarily a practice of the heart and soul, cultivating a deep surrender and connection with a higher power from within. Although there are undoubtedly physical benefits of devotion, the main purpose of this practice is to tap into a deep spiritual connection and unification. The primary benefits of bhakti yoga may include:

  • Relieves negative emotions
  • Clarifies your senses of self
  • Deepens bliss and joy
  • Alleviates fear and anxiety
  • Encourages profound peace
  • Leads to deep understanding and realization
  • Provides strength and confidence to face any challenge
  • Relief from stress
  • Cultivation of deep love and gratitude

Since bhakti yoga is primarily a mental and emotional practice rather than a physical practice, it is accessible to people of all ages and abilities. But make sure to talk to your yoga teacher or yoga therapist for deeper guidance on bhakti yoga practice and its suitability to your health needs.

The Top 5 Bhakti Yoga Practices

Unlike other yoga styles, there are no specific poses practiced in bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga focuses on cultivating an internal state of unconditional love towards all beings and particularly towards a higher power.

Of course, you can undoubtedly develop this inner state on a yoga mat, but bhakti yoga practices typically occur off the yoga mat. Some popular bhakti yoga practices include:

  1. Mantra Meditation (Japa)
  2. Devotional Chanting (Kirtan)
  3. Prayer and Devotion to the Divine
  4. Listening to Spiritual Lectures
  5. Selfless Service to Others and Volunteer Work

One of the leading practices in bhakti yoga is mantra meditation using mala beads or devotional chanting. There are an infinite number of mantras that you can use for this practice. Still, some commonly used mantras in bhakti yoga are OM, Om Namah Shivaya, and Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. Each of these mantras connects us to a higher power and reminds us of the interconnected nature of humanity at large.

In each of these practices, the goal is to unify yourself with a higher power, such as the universe, God, supreme soul, or whatever term you choose. Bhakti yoga promotes a deep connection between you and all beings, connecting you to the fundamental interconnection between humanity.

How to Practice Bhakti Yoga

In the Bhagavata Purana, Prahlada describes nine different types of bhakti practice that help to cultivate a deep connection with the divine. These nine parts of devotion are:

  1. Listening (śravaṇa)
  2. Chanting (kīrtana)
  3. Remembering (smaraṇa)
  4. Serving (sevana)
  5. Surrendering, (dāsya)
  6. Worshipping (arcana)
  7. Prayer (vandana)
  8. Friendship (sakhya)
  9. Dedication (arpaṇa)

But the beautiful thing about bhakti yoga is that each person can make this practice into their own. Bhakti yoga is about cultivating your own unique relationship with a higher power, and likely no two people will engage in this process in the same way. So, as you begin to dive into the beautiful depth of bhakti yoga, remember to stay connected to your inner being and honor the profound and unique love in your heart.

Start Bhakti Yoga at Home

Bhakti yoga is primarily a personal practice, so practicing it at home is often preferred. But having a teacher to guide you deeper into bhakti yoga can also be invaluable on your journey. So, if you can’t make it to a bhakti yoga studio, or perhaps you want to try bhakti yoga at home first, check out these follow-along videos below!

Bhakti Yoga: The Path of Devotion | Swami Sarvapriyananda

Bhakti yoga class (1-hour yoga)

Yoga Class Bhakti Yoga 20 Minutes – Asanas as Devotion to God

Om Namah Shivaya – Krishna Das Live! Songs With Lyrics

Bhakti Yoga FAQs

What is Bhakti Yoga in Hinduism?

Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion in Hinduism, and it is a deeply integral practice in this religious tradition. But the beautiful thing about bhakti yoga is that you absolutely do not need to be Hindu to engage in this practice. Bhakti yoga is open to people of all backgrounds, religions, and faiths. The core of bhakti yoga is to connect with your higher power of divinity in the way that feels best for you, and this can come in many different forms in different religions.

What is the Goal of Bhakti Yoga?

The primary goal of bhakti yoga is union with the divine. The primary philosophical belief in yoga is that there is an individual soul within each of us, and we have forgotten our connection to the supreme soul. Bhakti yoga is the path of remembering this connection and cultivating a deep loving relationship with the divine in your life.

What Does Bhakti Yoga Look Like?

Bhakti yoga comes in many different forms, and ultimately it is about how you feel internally. Bhakti yoga is the connection to a deep well of love within your heart which allows you to see everyone and everything in the world as a manifestation of God. By seeing the divine in everything, you see your connection to everything, and from a place of love, you can serve and connect with everything from this deeper level.

Important: Check with your doctor before trying Bhakti Yoga for the first time if you have any type of injury, illness, pain, or you are pregnant.

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