No pain in this Bhak(ti)

A review of an unexpected hour spent at Bhakti yoga on Friday evening.

Bhakti yoga

So, clad in some ghastly if practical purple leggings, wearing the staple baggy t-shirt, yoga-mat in hand, I joined four other people to attend a free yoga session at the riverside cafe. Alarm bells should have rung when I learnt that the session was free, and between 6 and 7pm on a Friday night. Error.

Nonetheless, I thought I would stretch my limbs for an hour before destabilising the Zen later on at Boathouse. And it began. The lovely, if slightly kooky teachers had us sitting on our trusty mats in a circle, before we started to talk about manthras. Fair enough, perhaps a little introduction before the stretching begins? Wrong.

We went on to chant said manthra 'hari krishna hari krishna, krishna krishna, hari ram ram, ramma ramma' and so on, to the sound of an energetic guitar and some bells. Admittedly this was quite relaxing, but difficult to feel totally in the present when you can hear people outside walking up and down the stairs and when the heating vent in the room starts humming.

All was looking fine and relaxing, until we were each given a set of wooden prayer beads. I mean I'd gone into it with an open mind, even though there was no stretching to be had, the relaxation part was happening in some sense. The chanting with the beads was the decider however, I felt like I had just joined a cult, that would be better placed in a lonely wood somewhere, with a fire crackling in the centre and everyone dressed in rustic robes.

We were asked to recount our experiences. Fumbling for words, because for the best part of the 108 repetitions of the manthra at least three of us had been trying not to giggle, I made up something about how my mind was picturing the river and the love and kindness that the manthra was supposed to bring.

Then they brought out some home-made chocolate scones. A little unnecessary, but quite nice if the motive was to enforce their message of sharing and not, as it seemed, bribe us to come back the following week!

All in all, the experience was a little bit spiritual but a lot more bizarre. I did come away with the knowledge that sex, desire for certain foods and other pleasure-seeking thoughts of the brain all came from the same part. This spiritual experience also, sadly taught me that I was not as much of a hippy as I thought, and that conservative yoga may indeed be the best thing for me.