To Chant or Not to Chant?

I loved this recent article that came out called “Dear Abby: My Yoga Teacher Won’t Stop Chanting“.  It’s a humorous take on a sometimes uncomfortable situation unassuming yoga students can find themselves in…  suddenly being required to chant strange and foreign Sanskrit words and not understanding why … or being embarrassingly “required” to sing when really they just wanted a “good workout”.

I’ve posted a few times about this subject before… see my previous post “What is this Weirdo Chanting Stuff in My Yoga Classes?”  I touched lightly in the post upon some of the scientifically documented mental and physiological health benefits of chanting, but the “Dear Abby” article actually gets into even more depth.  For example:

“Certain Sanskrit syllables, chanted properly and in the right order, actually create vibrations in the back of the palate that then travel up into the brain, providing a soothing sensation that relaxes the chattering of the mind. Whether this is a biochemical reaction, some sort of spiritual magic, or both, it definitely works if you’re guided properly.”

One of my favorite things about the classes I teach, is explaining the chant for students.  This helps to avoid the strange looks from newbies and puts the chant into relevant context.  I explain that we chant “Ong” at the start of class to represent the creation force of the Universe, something we can be mindful about setting alight in ourselves.  It also is a ritual that signals the official “start” of our sacred practice together.   Perhaps most interestingly, it is an indicator of how we are truly feeling, what state our nervous system is in.  I always ask students to compare how smooth and supported the second “Ong” is at the end of class compared to the first.  Our own voices can often reflect that shift in well-being that occurs after a yoga class.

I’ve met up a few times on a regular basis with friends to chant; it truly is a beautiful experience to share with other human beings.  Perhaps there is a situation and space in which you can feel comfortable exploring this lovely and profound style of meditation.  Maybe it’s by yourself with one lone candle, sitting in front of a little altar at 1am (typical for me) or maybe it’s with a few close friends and decent guitarist.  Or perhaps it’s a full-blown, two hour Kirtan held on the beach with a hundred people.  Wow.  That actually sounds really beautiful to me!

For now, I’ve got to find my way back to Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Se So Hung.  It was so healing and motivating for me during a very uncertain time last year.  I am about to enter into another state of flux, in which I am trying to move my dream of a wellness center into a true reality.  I need to find a way to make my current work schedule more flexible to accommodate the transition of launching the business (meeting investors, looking at spaces, wrapping up legal issues, etc), and to provide more opportunities to stay connected to teaching.  Yogi Bhajan said it needed to be done consistently for 40 days straight to shed old, bad habits and put a new and good habit into effect. 

Ra Ma Da Sa was my old friend and always will be!

McKenna Rowe is the Founder of Chakra 5 Mobile Yoga, an experienced team of corporate yoga instructors that provides mobile yoga classes on location and by appointment at businesses, schools and organizations throughout greater Los Angeles. Call us to start your corporate wellness program today: 310-853-3885.

Posted in Meditation