Bhava Basics

For the past few weeks I’ve been teaching about bhavas (attitudes, states of being) in yoga. Students have raised a lot of questions about this! In my attempts to answer them, I have revisited the concepts and reflected on my own related experience. I’ll share some of these reflections in upcoming posts.

In the meantime, I want to clarify that we are working with four bhavas developed by The Yoga Institute in India. The basic idea is that it is not only what we do, but how we do it, i.e. the attitude we bring to our practice. We can cultivate positivity and balance in ourselves with a mindful practice of the specific postures associated with each bhava. Taken from my notes, here are the bhava basics:


Definition: Duty; righteous action

Attributes: Discipline, self-direction, introversion, preparedness, steadiness, commitment

Practices: Meditative postures


Gyan (also transcribed as jnana from Sanskrit)

Definition: Knowledge; objective and deep awareness of self

Attributes: Coordination, concentration, synchronization of breath and movement, focus, balance

Practices: Twists, lateral and upward stretches, balancing postures, pranayama (breathwork), concentration practices



Definition: Creating a higher understanding; detachment

Attributes: Humility, letting go of ego and things beyond our control, surrender, relaxation

Practices: Forward bending and relaxation postures



Definition: Strength and freedom built through the progressive practice of dharma, gyan and vairagya bhavas; strength of the divine within us

Attributes: Self-reliance, fortitude, confidence, self-esteem

Practices: Backward bending postures, kriyas (cleansing techniques)


You can also check out the website of the Life Management Yoga Centre in Hong Kong  (affiliated with The Yoga Institute) for a description of each bhava. (Many thanks to the student who found this resource!)