Bhakti Yoga Club brings historical and modern interpretations together

While sticking to the historical roots and focusing on meditation, the yoga sessions also incorporate flexibility, fitness and relaxation

Members of ASU's Bhakti Yoga Club sink into their savasana — lying still, counting their breaths and listening to their weekly guided meditation.

Traditional Bhakti yoga relates to Hinduism and incorporates devotional practices into the sessions. Originally, yoga was used to initiate movement, find stillness and enhance meditation.

Members engage in specific methods of breathing which target different parts of the body and transform members’ mindsets toward body positivity. But the club isn't all tradition and yoga mats, members work to take those long-time traditions and incorporate them into modern day college life.

With small focuses on meditation and mantra, students also participate in spiritual yoga or concentrate on understanding one’s body.

In modern day yoga, many members use the practice for relaxation and to improve their flexibility and fitness.

Sarah Murray, biomedical science and nutrition sophomore, is the solo leader of the Bhakti Yoga club.

The purpose of the club for Murray is to bring the modern interpretation of yoga together with the historical roots of the practice while incorporating her own ideas.

“I think that the great thing about our club is that we kind of bring all of those aspects together,” Murray said. “I think something that’s great about yoga is that it’s a very personal experience.”

She incorporates elements of anatomy into each class, helping students understand how the parts of the body are connected. Each session, Murray centers on a specific body part. In previous sessions, she focused on the spine and hip-openers, a common stress area for college students who walk a lot.

She also engages her students in guided meditations and breathing exercises taking moments throughout the class emphasize body positivity.

Sabrina Leigh-Godfrey, computer systems engineering sophomore, said Murray differs from other yoga instructors by focusing less on performance and more on how the practice is benefitting the members in the class, modifying poses for a variety of skill sets and creating an atmosphere without judgement.

“Sarah (Murray) really emphasizes a lot of body positivity in the class,” Leigh-Godfrey said. “The body is kind of this amazing thing that you can use, and Sarah’s class kind of helps you realize the amazing things you can do with that body rather than judging it or focusing on what it can’t do.”

Leigh-Godfrey said she is transforming her mindset about yoga from being about performance and getting deeper in the poses to focusing on her own experience. By eliminating competition between herself and other club members, she is able to think and to learn about her own body and shift her focus onto utilizing her body in a positive way.

Although the main function of the club revolves around yoga practice, the club has elements such as a small potluck introducing members to vegetarian and vegan cooking and club discussions about the Bhakti lifestyle.

The members of Bhakti Yoga are diverse in their motives and lifestyles. Some members are vegan or vegetarian, or are open to experimenting with different eating and cooking techniques.

Other members are involved in the club for spiritual reasons and participate in the club discussions dwelling deeper into the devotional practices.

Although most of the members don't practice Hinduism, some of the spiritual aspects are brought into the yoga sessions extending the mindfulness of the exercises.

Abhishek Pharande, first year computer science graduate student, said the club invites guest speakers who have practiced Bhakti yoga for over 20 years.

“I’ve seen that it (yoga) actually helps the body to keep it calm and energized and happy,” Pharande said. “To invite them to give guest lectures on seminars such as anger management or how we can involve yoga practices not only for those 15 minutes rather than your whole day, and how we can enhance everyone’s capabilities for your studies and everything else.”


Reach the reporter at esounart@asu.edu or follow @emmasounart on Twitter.

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