Understanding Bhakti Vinyāsa Yoga
By Michael Johnson
What is Bhakti?
Bhakti means devotion, a deep yearning to experience love in its purest form. According to Dr. Shyam Ranganathan, Bhakti is identical to Yoga as a basic ethical theory that originated in South Asia. Although it is often confused with Theism, a decolonized view of Yoga or Bhakti does not require any beliefs. By contrast, Bhakti Yoga is simply devoting ourselves to the universal ideal of Īśvara (being in control of the activities of our mind rather than being controlled by them). It is practiced with Svādhyāya (owning our own choices) and Tapas (the willingness to make better choices rather than be governed by our past). This is how Yoga is defined in the Yogasūtra 2.1, the root text for Yoga Philosophy.
What is Vinyāsa?
In Yoga, vinyāsa is a transformative way of moving from where we are now toward where we want to be, while focusing on the process rather than grasping to specific outcomes. The word vinyāsa can be broken down into vi ≈ special, transformative and nyāsa ≈ ritual, practice. The physical practice of vinyāsa today is often associated with “flow yoga,” a technique that aims to align the movement and breath in a smooth, fluid way.
Although people tend to fixate on the external specifics of practices such as the postures or Sun Salutations, they have little to do with Yoga. Genuine Yoga only uses such practices as a means to control the mental activities to be free of afflictions. For those of us who are unable to sit comfortably enough to practice Yoga in stillness, such meditative movements can offer an upāya (skillful means) to eventually be able to sit still with the impulse control to practice the inner limbs of aṣṭāṅgayoga.
The Flow of Devotion
Bhakti Vinyāsa is a set of principles that can help us accept where we all are now and move with integrity from one posture to the next in a flowing yoga sequence toward optimal well-being.
A Bhakti Vinyāsa class integrates mantra (resolution), prāṇāyāma (conscious breathing), pratyāhāra (somatic awareness), dhāraṇā (concentration) and dhyāna (the flow state) while moving through sequences carefully designed for all bodies that prepare us to be still for daily samādhi (profound meditation) practice.
There are nine kinds of Bhakti mentioned in Nārada’s Bhaktisūtra. Come join my Bhakti Vinyāsa 5-day Intensive if you would like to learn them with me, September 5-9th (in-person or virtual).
Want to Learn More? Check Out My Upcoming Workshop!
Visit Asheville Yoga Center this fall for an opportunity to join students and teachers of yoga who are ready to transform their understanding of yoga with practices of Bhakti, the flow of devotion.
This yoga teacher training, offered both virtually and in-person, will inspire the fundamentals of vinyasa flow yoga with a devotional aspect that will awaken the heart to compassion, love, and peace. All levels are welcome.