I’ve just returned from Bhaktifest, a soul-filled festival celebrating Bhakti Yoga, or devotional path, with roots in yoga, kirtan and meditation. Bhakti Yoga and BhaktiFest draw those seeking to follow the path of the heart—a devotional, prayerful, loving, healthful, respectful family and community.
Whether leading us through packed yoga pavilion classes with chant/mantra, or leading ecstatic kirtan (call-and-response chanting) sessions, some of the most prominent (and Grammy-nominated) kirtan artists kept us enthralled. We enjoyed Ragani, David Newman, Jai Uttal, Govind Das and Radha, David Stringer, Brenda McMorrow, Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band, Saul David Raye, and so many more.
Bhakti Yoga is a vehicle for the evolution of human consciousness through a heart-centered revolution—opening our heart chakra and sending lovingkindness to ourselves, others, and the whole of creation. As a spiritual and wellness practice, it’s important to know that when one radiates love, compassion and gratitude from the heart center, this elicits a profound healing response in the mind-body physiology—boosting one’s immune system, and our environment’s immune system. After all, yoga means “yoking,” or “unifying” together of mind, body, spirit and environment. As organic practices go, Bhakti is a wonderful way to raise your spiritual footprint, which leads you to automatically lower your eco-footprint.
Bhakti: One Of The Four Yogic Paths
Bhakti is one of the four primary paths of Yoga, which include Karma Yoga, the active path of selfless service or Seva; Jnana Yoga, the philosophical or intellectual approach, which seeks to lift our veils of illusion or “Maya”; Raja Yoga, the scientific path for controlling the mind (the most popularly practiced yoga in western culture, inclusive of asana, pranayama, meditation and more). And then there is Bhakti Yoga, or the devotional path. You may have one basic sadhana (spiritual practice) as your preferred path, but drawing from the techniques of others as well can create the most holistic and balanced approach to well-being.
How To Practice
Bhakti teaches techniques for the expression, sublimation and transformation of our emotions into pure divine love. Chanting, prayer, repetition of mantra, often in concert with yoga asana, channels emotional energy into devotion—turning anger, hatred, anxiety, depression in a positive direction. Through such devotional practice, we raise our vibration, our consciousness, and join our individual soul with the divine. This concept of union with the divine through devotion, or bhakti, is found in all the world’s great wisdom traditions. This unity, this oneness, is realized as we chant, sing, connect, gather, rejoice, listen, share and importantly love within our yogic community and beyond.
Kirtan: Elemental To The Bhakti Path
Western practitioners are putting a new spin on kirtan, a call-and-response devotional chant, by mixing the traditional with the modern. In addition to the traditional accompaniment of harmonium and tabla (drum), guitars—electric and acoustic—and violins are often used. Western artists may infuse kirtan with rock ‘n’ roll, reggae, bluegrass and more to appeal to American sensibilities–and this seems to really be connecting with audiences eager for this experience.
Chanters repeat short phrases or mantras over and over. Chanting spiritually charged words and sounds can lift us out of our limited human consciousness into a higher spiritual awareness. You can feel the spiraling energy during these sacred experiences. And, in the repeating of these sacred Sanskrit names, something truly magical and healing happens.
So, if you want to open your heart, search the yoga studios in your area for Bhakti yoga offerings and classes.
Mary Beth Janssen is a certified mind-body health educator for the Chopra Center for Well Being and author of five books. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.