What is Bhakti Yoga?
Bhakti Yoga is the practice of devotion to a higher principle. It is available to all, irrespective of religious affiliation, and open to atheists and agnostics. It is a personal practice where the object could be a deity, a principle or an idea. Practiced in many religious traditions, the aspirant expresses love and devotion to a higher power, and is sometimes practiced as the surrender of every action, thought and emotion to a higher power.
Bhakti Yoga is suited to those who are emotional by nature or have a higher capacity for devotion or surrender, and are able to lose themselves in the practice. Conversely, it may work well for very rational, intellectual individuals who find an outlet for emotions they are unaccustomed to expressing! Ideally, emotionalism needs to be tempered by contemplation and self-study, to achieve a more balanced life.
Sometimes the rational mind is an obstacle in the spiritual search. Bhakti Yoga bypasses the rational mind trained to question and doubt, by providing an alternative route through the heart and emotions. It concentrates the input of the emotions, mind and senses. Emotional energy is channeled and sublimated to positive feelings of upliftment. Bhakti Yoga opens the heart, developing a loving kindness for all beings, not only those who are close to us.
Bhakti Yoga practices include Mantra* repetition, Kirtan* and prayer. The vibrations of Mantra chanting focus the mind on sound patterns which resonate deeply in subtle layers of our internal universe. Singing alone, in a group (Kirtan) or listening to devotional music is common in many spiritual traditions. All of these elements work together to focus and calm the mind, deepening the practice.
*See our section on Mantra Yoga for a fuller explanation