The Yoga of Devotion

August 21, 2012 – Courtesy Yoga Journal 

Years before having a child, a door to bhakti yoga opened to me. Make that several doors.

There was my Jivamukti yoga teacher Ruth Lauer Manenti and her wise and devotion filled talks given at the start of each class. (You can read some of these inspiring life lessons in her books  “An Offering of Leaves” and “Sweeping the Dust.”)

There was a precious book of guru stories about Neem Karoli Baba called “Miracle of Love.”

There were the gurus and artists and musicians whose pictures were framed on the walls of the yoga center I attended. Everyone from John Lennon to the Dalai Lama.

And there was Krishna Das—from my hometown of Long Island who became a seeker and yogi—who, through his devotional music, introduced me to the world of kirtan chanting. I listened to his CDs, went to his concerts, spent many long drives through the country with my then boyfriend (now husband) Neil singing along to his yogic grooves.

I poured my heart into my devotions. I prayed, I fasted, I meditated. I practiced asana and offered up my practice. And then I had a child. Naturally, without planning to, my devotions changed. I had a new vessel to pour my love into, to practice the act and art of giving with. Now there was a baby to nurse, diapers to change, and soon a growing child to nurture and support and encourage. My books and CDs grew dusty. My asana practice changed, too.

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For a long time my devotions were one sided. That’s what happens with a baby, of course. That’s changed, too. Lucien tells me several times a day, “I love you infinity plus infinity!” Now that he is old enough to express himself I can see the fruits of my devotional labors. The love I have given him is reflected and offered back to me, a hundred times over, like an offering of prasad given to the gods and then distributed back to their devotees.

Lucien has never been to a Krishna Das concert, or any kirtan for that matter, unless you count the time I was nine months pregnant and Neil and I went to chant with KD at a beautiful church in New York City’s Upper West Side.

Next week Krishna Das comes to Vancouver and even though the concert starts at 7 when Lucien is usually in pajamas, we’ll be taking him with us to chant and sing. Or at least dance around. I can’t wait to bring the two parts of my devotional life together—the connectedness that kirtan gives me and the utter rightness and joy and purpose that comes with loving Lucien.

Jessica Berger Gross is the author of enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds with a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle Pointer (Skyhorse). She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband and four-year-old son.