Yoga is an art and practice with many limbs and various paths. For those of us that practice, we not only practice on our mats, but we carry these teachings forward into our lives. We may have different styles and different lineages that we practice but there is one particular branch of yoga that is part of every practice, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. This yoga is Bhakti Yoga.
Simply put, Bhakti is the practice of love and devotion to that which is divine. Bhakti is recognizing that the divine resides at the center of every living being and that the essence of the divine is pure, unadulterated love. One of the easy ways to recognize this is in the exchange of Namaste: the divine light in me, recognizes the same divine light in you. It is a celebration of our connectedness with all that is around us, and loving it because at the core, we know we are the same.
There are many different methods to practice traditional Bhakti Yoga. One of my personal favourites is through Kirtan, the gathering of community to sing and chant together. The songs in a Kirtan are chants of devotion to the different attributes of our divine nature. They are sung in a call and response fashion and are often easy to repeat so it is inclusive to all.
I personally, have yet to meet someone that doesn’t love to sing. Whether you are a private shower singer, a car singer, or up-in-front-of-an-audience singer, there is a great release in being able to express the emotions within and even greater when you can share that with your community, without judgement, and only joy. Music and singing is proven to help in many cases of sadness and depression, which is especially important in these dark winter months.
The connection and energy of group music is why most world religions all include singing or chanting together in one form or another: it is the sense of oneness together. In Kirtan, the songs are often joyous melodies that really lift the energy and spirit.
In continuing the practice of love and devotion, the informal Kirtan gatherings we hold at Janati, are open to all and the only cost is a donation. We then donate the money to a charity.
For this February Kirtan, the charity of our choice is Home Free Farm Animal Sanctuary. I cannot think of a better expression of Bhakti than the daily love, devotion, and care that Carrie MacInnis and her family give to the souls at Home Free Farm, truly honouring the divine in all living beings.
To best describe what they do, I decided to use Carrie’s own words, so on a day where the temperature was hovering around -15C, I drove out to Carrie’s farm in Harrowsmith to ask her a few questions.
When I got there at 10:30 am, Carrie had already been down to the barn for quite awhile. The first thing you see when you enter the gate is three beautiful horses. Ronan, the retired Clydesdale, is an impressive size, and besides being elderly is….well…healthy as a horse. Equally as beautiful are Kat and Karma, a sweet ginger and a speckled white beauty. All the horses are eating fresh hay and eye me lazily, mildly interested but not enough to leave their food. Barrelling toward me to investigate is Winnie, a 700 pound pig, that proceeds to sniff me and nuzzle me with her nose. Carrie explains that normally pigs aren’t super crazy about the deep snow but Winnie needed to burn off some energy. I get a first hand example, as Carrie begins to run and call Winnie, much the same as most people would call their dogs when they want them to chase. I cannot describe the unbelievable hilarity of watching this huge pig run and skip across the snow like a playful puppy, as Winnie and Carrie play this wonderful game of chase. After a few minutes, we continue our way to the barn where I see the adorable goats, Zita and Happy and Sally the saucy sheep.
When we enter the warm barn, there are beautiful chickens, guinea hens, cats, mini ponies and many pot belly pigs. The mini pigs are adorable, smaller versions of regular pigs but, they still grow to be a hefty 150-200 lbs. This fact is something people don’t realize when they purchase them as babies, thinking that they would be cute alternatives to a cat or dog in the house. It is often information breeders forget to tell people when they purchase as well. The result is that many of these sweet, friendly little souls end up abandoned and neglected. When this unfortunate fate happens to a cat or dog, that is when the Humane Society steps in. When it happens to a bigger animal, the only hope for happiness is from places like Home Free Farm. It’s not just the pigs either, all the animals at Home Free Farm with the exception of the goats, are rescues, from one dire situation or another. Why? Simply based on the belief of love and compassion that these animals deserve a happy life too.
Look for my interview with Carrie in the second part to my blog on The Yoga of Love and Compassion. In the meantime, check out our event for Kirtan on our Janati facebook page . Tell your friends and come join us for a fun-filled hour with a great community for an even greater cause. See you there!
Amber Potter is a RYT200 Certified Teacher
Amber centers her life around unconditional loving kindness and compassion for all beings. She brings these aspects and shares her passion with others as a Hatha Yoga teacher and student, a practicing Buddhist, a devout vegan, and loving mother. Amber is also a long distance runner, a published poet, and a traveling gypsy when the time allows. She is a student of life, with a healthy thirst for knowledge and she enjoys learning and growing with every step.
Amber was first introduced to the concept of yoga as a teenager, vicariously through her older sister who has been her inspiration for most of her holistic life changes. When Amber began her own regular practice, she was hooked, more so than just with the physical aspect but also how yoga generated a peace within her fiery soul. Even today, if she feels a little dragon-y, she knows it’s a cue to unroll her yoga mat.
It has been a long dream of hers to share the joy and bliss that yoga can bring, and looks forward to bringing that to the community.
Amber is a very anatomical based Hatha teacher with a core belief of Ahimsa: non-violence and non-harming, especially when dealing with ourselves. She has a pursuit of the many facets of Yoga including traditional philosophy, kriya, meditation, pranayama, as well as an asana practice. Amber believes that every person can find self-success if they are willing. Anyone can be taught a skill; but you can’t teach will.