While we mainly look at Yoga in the west as a source of exercise that additionally makes us feel calm and centered, there are many ways to practice Yoga off the mat that don’t involve movement at all. In saying this, please know I continue to value and promote physical exercise – we must keep our bodies strong and mobile for our overall health and wellbeing.
Yoga is the 6,000 year-old science of the mind and is experienced as a stilling of our thoughts, or ending the ceaseless chatter in our minds. A revered Yoga sage and guru from 1450 BCE by the name of Patanjali explains that reaching this quiet space in the mind is done through non-attachment and practice. Practice, in reference to the eight limbs of Yoga which includes: social and personal ethics, physical poses, breathwork and meditation. However, I find the concept of non-attachment powerful. That eons before the material possessions we covet today, let alone indoor plumbing and heating were even a consideration to human existence, the Yogis already recognized this obstacle standing in our way of finding peace within. Beyond our stuff, our attachments also show up in our way of thinking, our value system and our relationships. We’ve probably experienced many times the ways in which the above have caused rifts with others, created judgments that maybe don’t need to be there, or overtook our thoughts for days upon end of who is or isn’t right.
While there are many ways to explore and dissect our attachments that could last an entire lifetime of over-analyzing or even blame, there is another solution: we can just let it all go! There is a path of Yoga, a way of experiencing Yoga that involves total surrender, total devotion to simply love. The path of Bhakti Yoga represents love for the sake of love. With no agenda, without asking for anything in return. Love in its purest form, unconditional and limitless. Looking into the eyes of a child, the awe of Mother Nature, the celebration of creativity, art and song, the total devotion to our spiritual or religious practices and beliefs. These are all forms of Bhakti Yoga. Ways of severing the ties that bind, the things that hold us back, that keep us from celebrating both the simple and great joy that life offers – the ability to love for the sake of love. Think of it as a way to celebrate all that is good, to shift our experience to one of gratitude. There are so many ways to practice Bhakti Yoga, here are just a few:
- Play music you love and sing along. Traditionally this would be the repetitive chanting of simple mantras. A beautiful one to check out is Krishna Das’: Mountain Hare Krishnaaccompanied by Sting and involves a seamless interweaving into Amazing Grace, or George Harrison’s: My Sweet Lord. But truly, any music that brings us joy and played often.
- When spending time with those you love, pause and be totally and utterly present with them. Really listen to the words they are saying or enjoy the silence between you. Celebrate in their joy, grateful for their love and friendship.
- Keep a gratitude journal and write 3-5 things down every day that you are grateful for. Even if they are the same things each day, even if they feel a bit mundane. The visceral experience of gratitude changes our thought patterns and even helps us release physical tension.
In each moment of the day, we have a choice. We have the ability to change our perception, to let go of the ties that bind, to let go of the stories from the past or our worries for the future. To celebrate life and love for no other reason that that alone. We all deserve happiness, what is holding you back?