Gopi Kinnicutt (ERYT 500) is the founder and owner of Bhakti Yoga DC and founder of Yoga Mandali in Saratoga Springs, New York. She has adopted her own unique style of teaching Bhakti-infused yoga through her diverse experiences and she organically creates and designs dynamic fluid yoga sequences, interlaced with deep spirituality. Gopi shares her insights with MysticMag.
Do you believe the practice of yoga to be an integral part of your spirituality?
Yes, very much so. Yoga is a holistic practice. The body is just a vehicle or instrument that allows my soul and my consciousness to express itself through. The physical practice is a mind body practice, it keeps this instrument functioning, imitates clarity of mind so that I can respond to life challenges with greater integrity. I explored more the spiritual aspects of yoga , like meditation, mantra and lifestyle before I had a physical practice. Most people enter the spiritual side from the physical side, yet I did it the other way round.
What can you tell us about Bhakti Yoga DC and its offerings?
“Bhakti” is a Sanskrit word expressing a devotional sentiment held in the heart of a person on a spiritual path. It is based on service, compassion and devotion to Divinity. Bhakti transcends race, nationality, politics and all external distinctions. Its philosophy holds the idea that the divine qualities that lie at the very essence of the self can be revived through the experience of meditation, philosophy, and mantra and yoga.
Through the practice of chanting, and the power of sacred sound, one is able to control the mind, open the heart, tune into a greater Divine wisdom and access places of great joy within. It is quite a mystical practice , we incorporate mantra, breathwork, sound healing into a lot of yoga classes offered at the studio.
Our studio is about building a sacred community, with respect and inclusion, it is a very diverse studio. We invite people to explore all the limbs of yoga. We have a philosophy night every Thursday evening where we come together to discuss sacred yogic texts, we chant together , share our life challenges and eat good food together. Once a month we have a large kirtan mantra music gathering. Music is a powerful way to build community.
What is the added advantage of doing a yoga retreat?
You can compare it to dipping your toes into a little pond of water as opposed to a full immersion and swimming deeply. The retreats that I run are a full yogi experience, and a complete immersion of the physical, energetic, emotional and spiritual experience of yoga on all layers.
It is not one small snippet of an experience but a continuation that creates a cleansing, the experiences create an awakening in the mind and heart and allows people to see through their old patterns. The retreats offer a person the emotional space to choose how they may respond to a difficult life situation. I work to retrain a person’s behavioral patterns. By initiating mindfulness they are able to take the time and space to respond between the stimulus and the point of action. It gives them the space to really evaluate and assess where they are.
Sometimes the retreat can be a teacher training which is a transformative experience, or it can be a yoga retreat on chakras for example, which involves very deep work. It depends on the emphasis. India is like a pilgrimage of the heart that opens people up to the greater aspect of yoga and spirituality.
You offer retreats in India and Columbia – which would you recommend to whom?
At the moment I have two retreats for India and Columbia and next year I will be offering a retreat in Greece. The retreat in Columbia is a teacher training immersion and involves understanding the therapeutics of yoga and the science of sequencing. It trains people to heal first themselves and then others around them.
The retreat in India is a sacred pilgrimage; Mystics and yogis have known for centuries that Mother Ganges has healing powers: physically, emotionally and energetically. The Ganges is the most sacred river in India. Believers say that her water descends from the celestial world into this earthly plane to purify us. By going to the Gomukh, her source, where she remains unpolluted and pure, one can access those healing powers through intention and ritual. Surrounded by the pristine and massive Himalayas, the glories of divinity become manifest and real in nature.
My yoga adventures awaken in my students an inner truth and calling, it allows them to access their greater potential through this portal and this for me is amazing!
Both retreats have their pros, but it really is the individuals calling.
What can you tell us about your personal journey with yoga and how it has led you to help and heal others?
I went through a lot of trauma and abuse as a child and when I became a teenager, I found myself at a juxtaposition. I turned my life around by living in a Bhakti Ashram where I learnt mantra, chanting, ritual, prayer and sound. I only thought I would be there for a couple of years but I ended up staying there for ten years. This Ashram was in Northern Ireland, and was run by women which was amazing, which is pretty rare.
I met my husband (now ex-) at this stage, and we moved to America. With this move, a lot of my old depression and anxieties surfaced again. I started doing a lot of physical asana and I saw that not only did I need to access the meditational, mantra, and chanting side of my usual practice, but I needed to work more on the physical side as my trauma was clearly embedded in my physical body. My issues were in my tissues.
So around twenty years ago, when I started to practice a lot of the physical movements, I would sometimes end up in tears, have a cathartic release and feel amazing. At the time I didn’t realize that it was changing the muscle memory of the trauma that had been embedded in my physical, anatomical body.
I went on to train to become a yoga teacher with incredible teachers (Shiva Rea, Ana Forrest and Gary Kraftsow) and they taught me how our body is an instrument and a mapping of our narrative and how we can undo the story through the physical, and access the emotional and spiritual via this route.
As I mentioned earlier, when I came into yoga, the spirituality was the deepest part of me and then later I became involved in the physical for an emotional healing aspect. In a nutshell, Yoga saved my life!
Want to find out more about Bhakti Yoga, visit https://www.bhaktiyogadc.com/ or follow on https://www.facebook.com/bhaktiyogadc/