Those who know me best, know I’m hooked. No more coffee or carbs. But give me my yoga–daily. Nightly. The more the better. It doesn’t have to be a sweaty hot power drill. I can sit still, with an empty mind. Allow my head to fill with mantras, or better yet, belt them out with ecstasy. Any of the eight (ashtanga) branches will do.
It’s all about the bhav.
Jayadvaita Swami, at the Texas Yoga Conference held at his Houston ISKCON Temple, described bhava. “It means subtle feeling. The subtle energy that encapsulates the devotee or seeker with an energy of understanding. It gives self-assurance. It gives self-esteem. It recharges the body and mind. All that connotation is included in the beautiful word bhava.”
A kirtan artist that easily puts me in the bhav with his vocals and flute playing is Manose. He so beautifully says, “I practice the listening of yoga on a deeper level. The subtle tiny sound I make. Bends and flutters are my asanas. Between that, there’s a space. Concentration. Every path leads to home. For some, it takes many lifetimes.”
For others, they can open the bhav door within this lifetime and feel the benefits of yoga mind-body-spirit. It’s important to let go. Forget your day job. Shelve your to-do list. Be in the moment.
Master yogi, Saul David Raye, says, “yoga is a spiritual bypass.” In his workshops, he calls upon different elements of yoga to help students feel the bhav.
So how do we get in the bhav in an age of perennial pill-popping and soul searching?
Tyagaraja Welsh, a yogi, musician, and Sanskrit scholar talks about how yoga makes a mark on the individual and the world.
“From the beginning of time, there’s been suffering. We can’t all be peacemakers, but our offering is meditation. Imbibe all souls with you and keep them in your map of your prayer (Sankalpa). It’s a form of protection. We’re creating bhava,” he continues. “Bhava is a tangible feeling that we cultivate with good food, om chanting and pranayama.”
The Sanskrit scholar goes on to say that even the sound of the veena, frequently heard in Indian mantras, can expand consciousness. I’d go out on a limb and say one can get there with the lute-like sarod, esraj and harmonium, too, all of which have magical resonant qualities.
Jayadvaita Swami suggests that the greater the devotion (bhakti) the greater the bhav. “It depends on the depth of faith. The result of devotion gives us something tangible…reciprocal. It is clearly felt and understood, and that is called grace. Grace is tangible. It is felt, sometimes immediately… in our moments of reflection… It has immense potential. Confidence is cultivated through this bhava. It covers a wide range of emotions.”
It may be hard for Westerners to acknowledge and describe the subtle feelings of the united body, mind, and spirit. But, as Jyothi Chalam, a Vedic scholar, confides, “You cannot deny the emotions you feel (with bhakti devotion).” The same is true with the other yogic branches when you are in the bhav.
Saul David Raye adds, “Ecstasy is important to bhakti, as is stillness. Silence is great. When we have that hummingbird greatness, we share our love.”