In yoga class, we often stress leading with the heart in most asana poses. And surely if you’ve been practicing for some length of time, you know that returning to the mat again and again requires a certain amount of both discipline and devotion – devotion meaning to engage with love. There is a strength of will, but also a strength of heart, when we embark on our spiritual journey. In recent days, it has become even more important to truly live our practice, to wake up, to open our eyes and hearts to a world that needs more love in the battle against hate. The quote from MLK Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” has been my mantra lately. The practice of yoga has always been a reLOVEution, removing the veil of separation between us and other, and seeing all life as interconnected.
The bhakti yogi sees the Divine in all living creatures – in our friends, in animals, in the plants and trees and mountains. When we talk about love in yoga, it is this type of unconditional love. As we begin to remove the veils of ignorance, we realize the work is less about cultivating love, and more about surrendering to it. Indeed this universal energy, cosmic consciousness, The Great Spirit, God, or whatever you’d like to call the source of all things, LOVES us. Imagine that for a moment. Each of us is already loved by the universe, and not in a tame kind of way, but in a wild, fierce, unconditional type of way. The work we do as yogis is to open up to this love, to surrender ourselves as we are, which requires seeing both the light and dark sides of ourselves – a bit scary and not simple, I know!
The work of the bhakti yogi is dynamic – it happens simultaneously inside and outside. Bhakti yoga urges us to ask the hard questions before we act and speak: What is the intention? Is the act coming from the heart? Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Just like different organs in the body play different roles, so do we each play our own unique role in the world. However, the heart remains our center and lifeline, so that we become instruments of love in all that we do. One of the most beautiful bhakti sutras says, “Love is manifest where there is an able vessel” (Verse 53). An able vessel is one free of self-expectation and willing to lay their soul out to the universe.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells the warrior Arjuna that the way to him is not through inaction, but through selfless action. Our participation in the world is seva, a sanskrit term that can be translated as “love in action.” We are connected to our brothers and sisters, to this Earth, to the plants and animals, to the rivers and the oceans. We know that our own freedom is bound in the freedom of all beings. Love is an action, and in the process we build the bridge to each other.
Come to sit in a comfortable seat. Bring your right hand to your heart, and your left fingertips to the Earth outside the left thigh, in this Earth witness mudra. Our left fingertips on the Earth represent our connection to the world, and our right palm at our heart is a commitment to act with love. Close your physical eyes, come into your breath, and sit up a little bit taller. Focus on lengthening the inhales and exhales. Think of someone in your life right now that could use some compassion. Hold the image of that being in your heart. With each inhale, imagine yourself receiving love from The Great Spirit. With each exhale, imagine giving that same love to your person.
I leave you with words from Ganga White:
“What if our religion was each other
If our practice was our life
If prayer, our words
What if the temple was the Earth
If forests were our church
If holy water – the rivers, lakes, and ocean
What if meditation was our relationships
If the teacher was life
If wisdom was self-knowledge
If love was the center of our being.”
Tina developed a deep love for quieting the body and mind during her time living in one of the loudest cities. Yoga found Tina in 2007 while she was living in New York, and the practice quickly became her sanctuary amidst all of the hustle.
She believes in the transformative process of yoga, with its ability to bring us back into our bodies and breath, and stretch our mental limitations of what we think is possible – both on and off the mat. Her mantra is to come as you are, and observe what unfolds. Tina’s classes are thoughtful and intentional, sharing inspiration from her personal practice and life.
Tina is a 250 RYT, and a graduate from Laughing Lotus in New York and San Francisco. When she is not on the mat, you can find her in nature, exploring
photography, and hanging with her animal friends! She is very grateful to be a
part of the Laughing Lotus community of the east and west, and is thankful for
this space to share her heart and energy with you.