Bhakti Yoga controls negative emotions, softens ego

The fifth and final article in the series on the Paths of Yoga

Jessica Sanders and Amal Karl
Kapiti Coast and Auckland, May 14, 2023

Yoga has been explained as integration and harmony between thought, word and deed, or head, heart and hand.

Through the practices of Yoga, one develops an awareness of the interrelation between the emotional, mental and physical. An imbalance in one affects the others.

Bhakti referred to as the Yoga of love, devotion and service, is thought to be an important aspect of a spiritual path. This form of Yoga helps us to tune into the love that already exists around us and to become aware of the divinity that is within everything and everyone.

Bhakti is not what we have or do, but rather an expression of life or an art of living.

About Bhakti

The term Bhakti originates in the Sanskrit word ‘Bhaj,’ which means love, attachment, faith, devotion and prayer.

While Hatha Yoga requires a strong, flexible body, Raja Yoga involves a disciplined, concentrated mind, and Jnana Yoga necessitates keen intellect, the only prerequisite for Bhakti Yoga is an open, loving heart. This path complements the other paths of Yoga and focuses, cultivating love for whatever form of divinity you resonate with.

This could be God, a Guru, an aspect of nature or the larger concept of the universe or you can also choose not to focus on a particular form.

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati refers to seva, ‘selfless service to others,’ and prem, ‘unconditional love’ as the two interactions that form the foundation of Bhakti in his book, Bhakti Sadhana.

Seva is when our feelings are intertwined with others, and we focus our efforts to help achieve their happiness and upliftment. When our heart is open, we experience a true sense of connection, empathy, affinity and oneness with all, that is prem.

This is the ultimate expression of Bhakti Yoga.

Transformation through Love

When we imbue our actions with an attitude of compassion, reverence and devotion, some of the perks entailed in the Bhakti Yoga practice include the following:

Relief from stress and worry: By cultivating calmness, peace and love, our problems can begin to melt away Research shows that this type of practice can help in stressful situations and relieve anxiety.

A sense of love and gratitude:  To truly receive love, we must find it within Through Bhakti, we can work to learn how it feels to be deeply loved and practice loving in return.

Feelings of bliss: Bhakti Yoga’s practice of love,  devotion and interconnectedness to all things may help one feel truly free and be able to experience the beauty and love of the moment more fully.

Lead with your heart: The unique paths of Yoga help us find peace, happiness and success in our lives. By practising Bhakti Yoga, we fill ourselves with positive emotions and then express the uplifting attributes of our nature through thoughts, behaviour and interactions. This harmony of head, heart and hands results in a feeling of fulfilment, first within us and then with all creation.

The Practice of Bhakti Yoga

The aim of Bhakti Yoga is to help us manage our negative emotions by softening our ego.

It lifts and lightens our mood to allow us to release our internal built-up pressures, thus preventing emotional outbursts. It counteracts the rumblings of an agitated mind, instead channelling that energy towards experiencing our inner, pure nature.

There are many accessible and powerful ways to practice such as (a) Hearing, reading, contemplating sacred texts and reflections on universal truths or teachings of spiritual masters (b) Attending a kirtan and chanting mantras to help connect to the moment through sound (c)  Performing service as an offering to the world around us without expectation of a reward (d) Practicing gratitude as a self-reminder of the presence of goodness in all beings (e) Japa meditation or mantra meditation, which uses repetition of a word or phrase to focus the mind and encourage feelings of joy and compassion (f) Silent or spoken prayer and devotional service lead to greater heart opening and connection to source (g) Spending time in nature to bask in the miracle of all living things (h) Dedicating some time to incorporate these practices can help finetune our ability to differentiate between experiences of temporary gratification and actual long-lasting happiness. With less dependence on external influences, this nurtures a greater

positivity and contentment enabling us to see the world from a new perspective.

Jessica Sanders is a Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). She lives on the Kapiti Coast. Amal Karl is Group Chief Executive of FxMed New Zealand, NaturalMeds New Zealand and RN Labs Australia and Director of other companies. He lives in Auckland.

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