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Dissecting various aspects of Yoga – Bhakti Yoga

The everyday life suddenly seems mundane, the parties seem lifeless and the life lacks a purpose. Ted talks won’t help, and the journeys to temples don’t provide enough answers, the high from holidays don’t last long and even drinks and cigarette appeal. Is something wrong with me, we might ask. No, not physically, this is our deep longing to find back to the origins of love within myself. The space within where infinite love, peace, wisdom, and freedom exist. For some Yoga is the answer.

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Yoga means “joined together.” The word comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word yug, which means “to unify.” A yogi is one who consciously unifies body, mind, emotions, and spirit so that they work together very well. A yoga devotee strives to live in an ongoing and progressively more joyous state of harmony. Body, mind, and emotions are brought into attunement with one another and with one’s soul, or spiritual self. The devotee finds this ongoing state of harmony not only to be a wonderful way to live but an essential factor in becoming enlightened — living in higher consciousness.

Yoga does not belong to the certain religion. It was originated in the East and practiced extensively here but the fact remains that people of many different faiths — Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Jews — as well as agnostics and atheists, practice yoga because of its numerous benefits- physically, mentally and spiritually.

Many practice yoga for its asanas, its physical exercises, which are regularly acclaimed to be extraordinarily health-giving by many doctors around the world.

Yoga for physical advantage

  • People who practice yoga and are mindful eaters are more in tune with their bodies. They may be more sensitive to hunger cues and feelings of fullness.
  • Researchers found that people who practiced yoga for at least 30 minutes once a week for at least four years, gained less weight during middle adulthood. People who were overweight actually lost weight.
  • Yoga is known for its ability to soothe tension and anxiety in the mind and body. But it can also have an impact on a person’s exercise capacity.
  • Several small studies have found yoga to have a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors: It helped lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension. It’s likely that the yoga restores “baroreceptor sensitivity.” This helps the body senses imbalances in blood pressure and maintain balance.
  • Another study found that practicing yoga improved lipid profiles in healthy patients as well as patients with known coronary artery disease. It also lowered excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes and reduced their need for medications.
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While physical and mental health is natural consequences of yoga, the goal of yoga is more far-reaching. “Yoga is about harmonizing oneself with the universe. It is the technology of aligning individual geometry with the cosmic, to achieve the highest level of perception and harmony.”

Many who practice yoga meditation are deeply religious, while many others who practice these meditations are agnostics seeking demonstrable experience and personal transformation.

History and development of Yoga

The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old. Yoga’s long rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice, and development.

The beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda.

The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).

The Classical period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written sometime in the second century, this text describes the path of Raja Yoga, often called “classical yoga”. Patanjali organized the practice of yoga into an “eight-limbed path” containing the steps and stages towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment.

Later people ejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga, with radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body-centered practices led to the creation of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.

In 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, when Swami Vivekananda wowed the attendees with his lectures on yoga and the universality of the world’s religions. In the 1920s and 30s, Hatha Yoga was strongly promoted in India with the work of T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda and other yogis practicing Hatha Yoga.

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The widely practiced Yoga Sadhanas (Practices) are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana (Meditation), Samadhi /Samyama, Bandhas & Mudras, Shat-karmas, Yukta-ahara, Yukta karma, Mantra Japa, etc. Yama’s are restraints and Niyama’s are observances. These are considered to be pre-requisites for the Yoga Sadhanas (Practices). Asanas, capable of bringing about the stability of body and mind ‘ kuryat-tad-asanam-sthairyam…’ , consists in adopting various body (psycho-physical) patterns, giving the ability to maintain a body position (a stable awareness of one’s structural existence) for a considerable length and period of time as well.

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“There are the only four realities in your life: body, mind, emotion, and energy. Whatever you wish to do with yourself, it must be on these four levels. If you use your emotions and try to reach the ultimate, we call this bhakti yoga, the path of devotion. If you use your intelligence and try to reach the ultimate, we call this jnana yoga, the path of intelligence. If you use your body, or physical action to reach the ultimate, we call this karma yoga, the path of action. If you transform your energies and try to reach the ultimate, we call this kriya yoga that means internal action. These are the only four ways you can work with yourself”.- Sadhguru

Bhakti Yoga

The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root “bhaj”, which means “to adore or worship God.” Bhakti yoga has been “union through love and devotion.” Bhakti yoga, like any other form of yoga, is a path to self-realization, to having an experience of oneness with everything.

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Bhakti yoga, or devotional yoga, is the most natural path for those who are dominantly seeking emotional fulfillment and wellbeing. The “bhakta” usually practices meditation by visualizing, thinking and feeling that the Lord is sitting or standing before him. The bhakti pours out his heart’s love, adoration, and shares his deepest thoughts and concerns with the Lord until a continual flow of awareness moves between the devotee and his or her beloved Lord. This continuous flow of love and life force brings about a superconscious state of awareness which is generally called a mood, or bhava.

Both in the mood of twoness and in the experience of oneness you are transformed: your character is improved. And, periods of higher consciousness come more frequently. With even greater development, the aspirant who does bhakti meditation lives in a sense of permanent relationship with his divine Beloved! This permanent relationship is not a static thing. It develops into one exciting dimension of love after another. These relationships are ever-new and ever-refreshing and continue to delight the bhakti yogi throughout life.The bhakta, also, because of the ease of the mood relationship, is given special ability to experience the deep samadhis and other high states of awareness which other yogis focus upon.

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When you are overwhelmed by something or someone, you naturally become devout. But if you try to practice devotion, it creates problems because the line between devotion and deception is very thin – it will lead you into so many kinds of hallucinations.- Sadhguru

Devotion is another dimension of intelligence. Intellect wants to conquer the truth. Devotion just embraces the truth. Devotion cannot decipher but devotion can experience. Intellect can decipher but can never experience.

The Nine Limbs of Devotion

There are mainly 9 practices associated with Bhakti yoga. They are:

  1. Shravana – “listening” to the ancient scriptures, especially potent if told by a saint or genuine bhakta.
  2. Kirtana – “singing” devotional songs, usually practiced in a call-and-response group format.
  3. Smarana – “remembering” the Divine by constantly meditating upon its name and form.
  4. Padasevana – “service at the feet” of the Divine, which incorporates the practice of karma yoga (selfless service) with bhakti (devotion).
  5. Archana – the “ritual worship” of the Divine through practices such as puja (deity worship), and havan or homa (fire offering).
  6. Vandana – the “prostration” before the image of one’s chosen image or representation of the Divine.
  7. Dasya – the “unquestioning” devotion of the Divine involving the cultivation of serving the will of God instead of one’s own ego.
  8. Sakhya – the “friendship” and relationship established between the Divine and the devotee.
  9. Atmanivedana – the “self-offering” and complete surrender of the self to the Divine.

Many modern bhakti yogis believe that “the guru” can be found in all things.Some consider Shiva- Adhiyogi, their Guru while the others revere other Gods, Some even the yogis and Spiritual gurus and mystics who changed their lives in one way or the other. Bhakti, then, becomes a state of mind, a consciousness that involves embracing the Beloved—in whatever form that takes.


Sources: yogabasics.com spiritualworld.org isha.sadhguru.org  yogajournal.com