Posts Tagged With: Bhakti yoga

What is your religion?

crianca-orando-2

Recently, I spoke to a middle aged woman who was genuinely interested in yoga as a health practice. Though, she felt that yoga was interfering with her religion, since she was raised as a Roman Catholic. I felt it was better not to start a discussion about yoga and religion, instead I suggested trying Pilates or Yogalates, a fusion of yoga and Pilates. Some religious leaders actually forbid practicing yoga, but allow their followers to do a stretch class (not mentioning the word yoga); a class focused on the physical practice of yoga or asanas and the lack of any Sanskrit words or links to (other) God(s).

Most yogis would agree with me that yoga is not a religion. I would classify it more as a holistic ancient health practice. T.K.V. Desikachar stated: “Yoga was rejected by Hinduism, because yoga would not insist that God exists. It didn’t say there was no God, but just wouldn’t insist there was.”

Though, yoga has similarities with a religion; for example it involves spiritual experiences and includes a moral code (the yamas and niyamas). So maybe we should classify yoga as a spiritual practice? Honestly, If I’ve to fill in a questionnaire which includes asking for my religion, most of the time I’m hesitating. Am I Buddhist? Or a Hindu? No, I am not. I’m yogi, but that is not a religion. But for me it is my lifestyle and my personal practice. My belief system is based on my inner guru and ‘outside gurus’ who remind me of the universal wisdom. Some bhakti yogis consider ‘Love’ as their religion. At the same time religious people can experience God as Love.

According to Wikipedia; “Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their ideas about the cosmos and human nature, they tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle”

What do you think? Is yoga your religion? Or are you a Catholic/Hindu/Muslim/Atheist/Jew practicing yoga? Or do you think it doesn’t matter at all?

yoga-1

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Yoga of the Heart

My mum's beach yoga class

My mum’s beach yoga class

If I tell other yogis that my Mum is a yoga teacher, most of them are keen to know what kind of yoga she is teaching. “A mixture of different types of yoga; Hatha, Raja and Dru Yoga among others, as well as her own ideas and creativity in regards to Yoga”, is what I often reply. My mum recently told me that her kind of approach to yoga can be called: Satyananda Yoga. Soon after that, I jumped behind my computer to do some research about Satyananda Yoga; honestly I had never heard of it before.

Satyananda yoga, widely regarded as ‘integral’ yoga, is developed by Sri Swami Satyananda Sarawati with the aim of spreading yoga from door to door. Satyananda yoga encompasses all the major branches of yoga, including Hatha, Karma, Bhakti, Jnana and Raja Yoga. The aim of this integral or holistic approach is to develop and balance all aspects of one’s being – body, mind, emotions and psyche – leading the practitioner towards a more harmonious state of being. Satyananda yoga is often referred to as the Yoga of the head, heart and hands. The head represents intellect, the heart represents compassion and the hands represent action. Yoga is achieved when these three aspects of self are balanced. Satyananda yoga is suitable for everyone; from beginners to advanced yogis and does not conflict with one’s social background or religious beliefs. It is an evolving yoga that is grounded in tradition, yet adaptable to the needs of today. In this way the teachings are universal, progressive and inspiring.

At the moment, I’m moving away from going to a lot of yoga classes as a student. Instead, I try to deepen my home practice and my ‘own’ yoga more. A fellow yogini told me the other day: “True yoga, is the yoga done in your own home. In this way you can be aware and focused on your own body, mind and spirit and their needs.” I still love my yoga classes, especially because of the social aspect to it. At the same time, I feel I can develop myself further by listening to my specific needs to still my mind. My wise mum advised me as well to practice yoga at home mainly and maybe go to a few classes a week. The difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga student is that the first one doesn’t need a teacher or yoga class to practice yoga. Slowly I start to embrace a more holistic approach to yoga. As an exercise lover, I am naturally drawn to the physical aspect of yoga. However, at times my body screams for some rest and soothing poses. Also, I can definitely incorporate some more yoga of the heart in my daily life, as my partner would say; Real Life Yoga. If you’re living in Australasia and keen to practice Satyananda Yoga, have a look at: Satyananda Yoga Australasia

Meditator-with-red-heart

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From comparing to self-reflection and love

There are four main paths of Yoga: Jnana, Bhakti, Karma and Raja Yoga all leading to the same: Samadhi. Most yogis combine different styles of yoga on their journey. I have spoken briefly about Bhakti and Karma yoga in earlier blogs. Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge and wisdom. It includes introspection and contemplation and is the yoga path of the sage or scholar. A Jnana yogi uses the mind to inquire into his/her own nature by systematically exploring and setting aside false identities or the Ego. It looks into the absolute truth about who we are and the main question you ask yourself will be: ‘Who am I?’ It focuses on that in life what is never changing as opposed to the illusions in life which is ever changing. Jnana yoga starts from direct experiences, but also requires development of the intellect through the study of the scriptures and texts of the yogic tradition.

Travel your road

Travel your road

You can relate Jnana yoga to the fourth niyama; Svadhyaya or self-study/self-reflection. Besides the reading of sacred texts and meditation, Svadhyaya can also include our reflections in normal daily life. Since we share our life’s and the earth with so many other people, we receive plenty of opportunities for self-reflection through social interactions. More often than I would like to, I catch myself playing out different ego patterns. One of my really annoying habits is to compare myself with others in terms of intelligence, finance, family, career, beauty, flexibility and so on. I always end up judging myself and/or others and never feel good after I’ve had my ‘compare time’. My partner is most of the time the victim in the sense of having to listen to all my crap and mind chatter. He made it clear for me once again: “Don’t compare yourself with others, just follow your own journey.” I realized and felt; he is right! Each of us has their own individual very special journey in life. Our task is to be true to our own journey in life and give it a 150%! And love your life exactly how it is at this moment.

Fully

And your Life

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Find Love in unexpected places

While I tried to calm my overactive mind by a stroll along the beach, I was happily surprised by the following:

Let Love find you

Let Love find you

What a beautiful present! I felt much better straight away about my decision to go for a walk and my guilt started to disappear slowly. Guilt about not applying for jobs, studying my yoga Teacher’s Training course preparations, writing blogs or other useful tasks. At the same time inspiration arrived for my next blog. Once again I learned that relaxation is beneficial in a lot of ways.

This little sign of love brings me to Bhakti yoga, also called the yoga of devotion or love. The Sanskrit word bhakti is derived from the verb root bhaj, which means ‘to belong to’ or ‘to worship’. Bhakti can be translated into devotional service or pure love. Within this yoga style, your personal relationship with God and emotional fulfillment and wellbeing are your focus points. It is the way towards realization and union of the individual with the universe or the Supreme Soul through acts of love and service. Bhakti yoga leads to the same destination as all the other branches of yoga, but is especially suitable for those who are emotional in their nature and have feelings of love and devotion highly developed. In terms of the five principles of niyama, bhakti yoga is Isvara pranidhana; surrender of one’s actions and one’s will to God. Through practice you can reach a higher state of intelligence and that makes you lose the identity of the self, you become one with God.

Above all, love is the most fundamental drive of every living entity. You cannot be happy without satisfying your desire to love. So let’s LOVE today on Valentine’s Day!

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