This week I purposefully went to yoga to do Sanskrit chanting. It’s called Bhakti yoga. I love Sanskrit chanting! Each time I’ve had the opportunity to do group chanting I’ve had awesome emotional shifts. It brings me to my core; the divine place of who I am; an infinite child of God. Group chanting has a much deeper effect than individual chanting. When we are all together for a common purpose of elevating our consciousness, clearing out our emotional guck, and are open to infinite possibilities, the collective consciousness takes over and all of the above transpires.
Seven or eight years ago my sisters and I stayed the weekend at an Ashram in Colorado. At the time I was new to the spiritual journey and didn’t quite know what I was getting into or even why I felt a calling to go. My sister said there was a new Ashram that opened up about an hour away from her, she’d been wanting to go and why didn’t the three of us go and experience this thing together. The weekend was an awakening of sorts for me on levels that I didn’t yet identify with. I was introduced to yoga, meditation, devotion, vegan food, silent retreats, people full of love, and sanskrit chanting.
The first morning of our stay I woke up at 5am to experience my first taste of sanskrit chanting of the Guru Gita; an hour-long chant to the divine. Guru Gita (Song of the Guru) is a Hindu scripture with 182 versus. “Sanskrit is a language that has been constructed at the deep levels of consciousness,” says Russell Paul, mantric musician and author of The Yoga of Sound. “The sounds are specially constructed to penetrate the analytical mind and affect our nervous system very directly. In this sense, they are a short cut, and are like spiritual pharmaceuticals that enter into our soul with palpable physiological effects.”
Even if we don’t understand the meaning of the mantra, it tunes into our subconscious mind. Often we don’t need to translate the meanings of the mantra, they work their magic on a subtle level not an intellectual level. Russell Paul explains that the original mantric root sounds are encoded with universal spiritual qualities. “Mantras retain this power and have been preserved for thousands of years in an uninterrupted tradition of sacred sound.”
We made our way to the temple in the dark wee hours of the morning with the glow of flashlights from our phones; the sun had not yet began to rise, the moon was still out. I found a spot on the temple floor with my meditation pillow, sisters near by, opened the book of Hindu text and began chanting. As I continued to chant the words that made no sense to me I started to feel an overwhelming feeling of love and peace come over me. I had a sense of contentment and joy. Even though I was struggling to keep up with the chant and attempting to pronounce the words properly I was smiling and experiencing feelings that had been missing for some time. And without any fore warning I began to cry! Big tears started rolling down my cheeks and under my chin and I had to start taking deep breaths. Had I not been in a temple I would have been sobbing. I continued to breath deeply through the chanting as the big tears continued to flow. I had snot pooling under my nose. I had no idea what was happening or why I was so emotional. Every part of me told me to just allow the process to unfold. I could feel the vibrations of the words I was attempting to chant and the vibrations of the chanting from those around me permeating my body. I simultaneously felt love, joy, happiness and confusion. When the hour of chanting came to an end all of my being was telling me something had majorly shifted yet I had no idea what it was. It was the biggest crying session I’d had in years. My sisters looked at me with utter confusion. Clearly they had a different experience.
That experience has stuck with me over the years and I’ve craved that space of divine love and joy that one gets with group chanting. Now that I know the effects chanting has on the mind and body and the awakenings it can offer, I know the openings and clarity sanskrit chanting can bring. So I mindfully and purposefully went to my yoga studio, Maitri Yoga, to chant. My intention was to just show up and let the universe work her magic. I was almost giddy walking into the studio. I had no idea what transformations would happen and I want to say that I had no agenda but in fact I did. I expected the emotional release and opening that I have to come to love. I know that when we chant, we can change the chemistry of the brain and our whole vibrational being through the 84 meridian points in the mouth. I was ready!
My teacher Mindi is awesome. She’s so welcoming and non-judgemental and full of love. She opened our practice by chanting to us. We had the benefit of laying on our yoga mats and receiving the beauty of the music and vibration that it gives. Her voice is enchanting. The combinations of her voice, the vibration of her chant, and the sound of the harmonium was incredibly calming and tranquil. Throughout this particular class we did specific heart opening stretches and hip openers. Towards the end of class, in shavasana, she chanted to us again. Which was extremely lovely. However my busy mind was taking over and I was wondering if I was going to have the opportunity to chant too. And oh thank God we did! We sat up crossed legged and began our chant. Mindy gave us a paper with the sanskrit chant and the english translation. We were going to sing in sanskrit then in English. As she began to play the harmonium the music flooded through me once more and I started my chanting.
“Lokha Samista Sukino Bhavantu
“May All Beings Everywhere Be Happy Be Free”
I chanted for a few minutes enjoying the love flowing through my body. And once again without warning it happened. The tears started flowing; right down my cheeks and under my chin. This time without question I willingly allowed them to flow. It felt so cleansing. I don’t know what I was clearing out, and sometimes I don’t ever know what’s clearing out. I just trust that what is ready to be released it getting out of my system. We chanted for about 10 minutes as I continued to breath deeply and attempted the chant. Waves of emotions continue to pass through me and I cried, allowing all that was ready to be healed to flow through me. As much as I was crying it was also incredibly blissful. Sanskrit chanting tunes us into universal life force energy, prana. From here we create a direct healing experience with our body. We send love to every organ. I was healing all right. Anything and everything that had been bottled up since my last chanting was releasing itself from me.
As class ended we all shared a bit about why we were there in the class. It’s always humbling to hear others speak up and state their intention for the class. I wasn’t the only one experiencing some serious healing. Bravo to us for showing up to do the work. One of my favorite sayings is to just show up for the work and be open to whatever happens. It is almost always not what you expect!