A Personal Journey Into Bhakti Yoga
Written by Sibylle Koelbl, an inspiring yoga teacher, kirtan lover, and life coach.
India oh sweet India. Although I am a Yoga Teacher and love everything to do with yoga, it never occurred to me to venture out to India to see where yoga originated. Perhaps I was scared to be disappointed by seeing the reality that many Indians get hit with (think Slumdog Millionaire) or I just wasn’t yet ready to go to the roots. But, when my yoga teacher Dana Trixie Flynn from Laughing Lotus told me that she was offering a 100 hour intensive on inversions and Bhakti yoga there just wasn’t any question of whether I would go or not – I signed up for it immediately.
Fast forward past the crazy time we spent in India I sit back and reminisce about my time there. Mother India has held me intensely and changed my perspective on pretty much anything. It is a country full of beauty, contradictions, love and shadows. Whilst my heart broke open and I got in touch with my most vulnerable state (courtesy of Dana who is the most amazing teacher leading you deep inside your own heart), I was also confronted with so much injustice and seemingly difficult lives of so many.
How can we try and practice the principles of Ahimsa (non-harming) if everything else around us seems so in just and so many people suffer? How can we cultivate an open heart of we are continuously stung by our attachment to the past or future? India has allowed me to dive deep within my heart and showed me once more that we all cultivate the light as well as the dark but most of our day to day life gets influenced by the shadow.
As a result I started questioning my future as a yoga teacher. In a world where ‘success as a teacher’ seems to be measured by the amount of followers on Instagram or Likes on Facebook, I feel completely lost. Yoga has touched me so deeply and I refuse to boil down Yoga as we know it in the West to ‘just asanas’. I want to be able to lead people to find their way back to their heart, their vulnerable state, their home. And for that we all have to shed our ego and go beyond the surface dropping deeper into ourselves beyond the point of comfort. Can we as teachers provide this space if we worry about how great we look on the pictures posted and how many people book our classes and workshops?
I witnessed the true essence of yoga in India as I sat in silence down by the river day by day, watching locals pray and sing to Shiva and Hanuman. As they sat with eyes closed, chanting their hearts out, there was so much peace and calm. Every evening without fail, I felt closer to these strangers as I had in any yoga class. My heart was open as we danced to the sound of the drums and we shared blissful moments – moments where I really saw the divine in everybody. And that to me is yoga. Asanas are just a part of it.
I continuously want to be connected to my heart so I can see and feel people all around me and help others to do the same. And for me personally that means to allow my ego to take a backseat and focus on the more spiritual side and allow my heart and voice to sing to the beauty of the divine surrendering to the divine within myself. There are many ways that lead to Rome, but only one that feels right for oneself. And to me that is that I need to cultivate more of the surrendering to the divine and hold space for my students to feel into themselves, with love and devotion.