In Ashtanga we do an opening and closing prayer in conjunction with practice. It is important to sound the Sanskrit words aloud to feel how the vibrations will affect your being. I know that sounds strange at first, believe me, I was that person. I never felt comfortable chanting the words in front of others on my own in the Mysore room. I think it’s because I didn’t have an experience with it that allowed me to really understand its purpose. Once I started to practice at home, I began to realize the significance of the sounds that come from chanting.
I am alone, I chant and I feel the vibrations within me.
It’s that simple. Doing this every day by yourself, the sounds are clear and the meditation within it is more palpable, I have found. The opening chant is invigorating, uplifting and a wonderful honour of gratitude for the practice that will unfold following the prayer. At the end of practice, it feels like a seal of good intention that will affect the time after practice wether it be the entire day (which is desirable) or the night to come after an evening practice (more common for me nowadays). The final words of the closing prayer are “om shanti, shanti, shanti.” This translates to mean universal peace. It has been interpreted to mean that we are invoking peace for all beings and for all to be happy and free. This is just such a beautiful thought and intention to vibrate out into the world.
Regardless of the time which I utter these ancient words, their effect remains. Now when I am blessed to have the ability to go to the shala for practice, I feel confident to say them aloud because the vibration of their sounds is now something I have grown used to feeling before I begin. The lifting energy I feel when the whole room sounds the chant together is powerful. I enjoy doing them very much.
There are also other chants which I have been taught and connect deeply with. Their uses for me are anything from invoking strength, focus for learning to healing and positive intention. It is thought that the universe is made up of vibrational sounds and I find that creating them truly helps me to meditate at different times. When I gave birth to my babies, I used sound to help take my mind away from the pain of labour. Especially with my son as it was a completely natural birth experience. In fact, I remembered at the time of his birth that the walls were supposedly sound proofed in the hospital. I had learned that on my tour of the hospital and chuckled to myself when the memory of that piece of information came to me as I deeply om-ed during my labour. Deep sounds helped me to withdraw from the pain I felt during labour and I truly feel that it was my yoga that prepared me for this experience. Of course I also did a lot of swearing and crying because, you know, it really hurts;)
Just like in learning, meditation styles differ among people. I was an auditory learner and also learned well through writing when I was in school. When I practice yoga, I enjoy asana and chanting but visualizations are not my favourite. Simple visualizations of breathing or the Golden Ball of Light Meditation that I do are good, but more complicated visualizations don’t help me focus as well. My mind wanders off too much. There are many yogis who exclusively practice japa mantra as their meditative practice. Japa translates to mean “muttering” and basically mantras are repeated in this practice many times. Examples could be “Om Namah Shivaya” or “Sat Nam”. Using a mala is a good accessory for repeating mantras. If you would like to read more about mala, you can find more hereWhat is a Mala?
It is important to learn how to sound the Sanskrit words correctly and I was informed of this by a wonderful woman who lead our current yoga teacher training group into a Havan Fire Ceremony. I will detail this experience in another post coming soon! The Havan is performed to aid in the energies of creation. The teacher who did this with us made it clear that pronunciation is important because the divine energies we are paying reverence to deserve this respect.
In writing this post, I think that I will do another chanting post where I will share some of the chants that I know and use regularly. What do you think? Is there something else you would like me to write about regarding chanting?
Have a fabulous week!
Love to you all,
💖Lisa Michelle xo