What is Bhakti?

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Chakra3This month is Bhakti month at Shala Yoga and some of you have been asking what Bhakti is and what it means.
The Yoga Sutras offer the definition of bhakti as “Devotion to a personal form of divinity,” and the practice of Bhakti Yoga as “The Path of Devotion.” Devotion is defined as “Love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity.” I think that if we look at devotion in this way, we can begin to see that as humans, as individuals we can be devoted to a plethora of things, people, and/or activities. My teacher offers that whatever we spend the majority of our time doing is what we end up being devoted to, whether it is a conscious decision or not.
The above definitions provide both verbal and written expressions in English of the sanskrit term, which helps our logical brains to understand Bhakti. However, ultimately Bhakti is not something that can be logically understood, but rather it is something felt deep in the heart, or in the heart-mind (citta or body-mind.  This sense of devotion is something that often is stirred up from deep within, perhaps you had no idea that it was even there.  I would say that in my experience this practice of yoga really invites and allows you to soften your heart, to create space and opening, to be vulnerable and tap into you sense of devotion, not only to the divine that is outside of you, but perhaps most importantly to the divinity that lies deeply within yourself.  This awakening to the divinity within has really altered my perspective, and is a major tenant of Tantrik yoga (not it’s not just about the sex).  I think so many religions (and I grew up going to church) teach the idea of sin and wrong doing and repenting.  The message of love and devotion get lost.  The focus is more on judgement, punishment and penance, or at least that has been my experience.  A lot gets covered over and lied about because everyone is trying to live up to some impossible idea of what perfection is, or what it means to be devoted.  
Tantrik practices and the practice of bhakti teach us that the divinity that we are seeking is already within and all we need to do is to uncover it, that there is great beauty in being exactly as you are. It’s like the feeling of butterflies in your belly, I often experience it as a warm feeling, literally like a fire moving across my energetic heart. It’s the sense of being fully alive and present.
I hope that Shala Yoga offers some practices for each of you to access this sense of inner devotion of warmth in the heart.