This month, I am thrilled to be collaborating with Lululemon Athletica Kitsilano in Vancouver on something that I am very passionate about: the practice of japa or mantra repetition. I will fully admit that when I first came to yoga, it was this sort of 'sitting in a circle singing kumbaya' stuff that I wanted to avoid at all costs. I did yoga to heal my body, not sing words in some other language that meant nothing to me surrounded by people I didn't know...that sounds like a strange and cruel punishment. Getting an OM out of me was awkward enough already!
Sure enough, in my second month of living in Vancouver I stumbled into a yoga class where the teacher made us gather together in a group, sit tall, close our eyes and repeat after her, in Sanskrit, a mantra asking for inner peace. I couldn't sprint for the door fast enough and as luck would have it I ended up sitting right next to the teacher so mouthing the words silently would surely get me in a heap of karmic trouble.
So there I was, cornered by all of my fears and aversions to what I figured was the fluffy, hippie-dippy part of yoga I wanted no part of. And then something happened that I did not expect. I began to notice how comforting it was to hear the person on me left breathe deeper...my body responded and did the same. I noticed how the teacher on my right would call out the words in workable sections so that I could actually sound out what needed to be said. I noticed that since we were in a small space, the sound of our voices filled the room completely. Suddenly things weren't so awkward anymore.
As the chant went on, our voices became more powerful as they melded together and my mind was able to slow down to a steady focus on what the mantra meant for me. I didn't notice until after we finished and sat in the stillness that room was charged with the most incredible energy. My body tingled with what I now know is prana - life force - but in that moment I just knew that something massive had shifted.
I dove deeper into mantra by going back to this same teacher and learning from her while also searching out other teachers who would lead chanting. I was less intimidated and less timid every time until eventually I found power and strength to my voice that I never knew existed. I'm not talking singing abilities or volume control or anything like that. I'm talking about actually discovering the ability to say what you mean, what you really feel, without holding back. Discovering how to stand up for yourself, speak in a way that is clear and concise, allow for space to listen to others and in turn asking for respect so that your own voice could be heard. That was just the first layer of lessons japa had for me, the benefits shifted into my physical yoga practice allowing me to devote all my efforts and even frustrations to the intention behind my chosen mantra. Everything in my practice and life began to reflect the compassion, peace or liberation I focused on through mantra. It has served me in so many ways and I share it in class hoping to ease others into this aspect of the yoga practice that can start out as discomfort but lead to massive growth.
On Mantra Mondays, we will confront the reasons we feel awkward or uncomfortable, address ways to baby step into using a mantra, help you gain a better understanding of why we do it and how it can benefit our lives. In addition, on May 5th, I am very excited to welcome my soul sistah and fellow teacher Franceska Lavaggi (the babe in the picture) as she will speak to the benefits of using mala beads to count your repetitions as well as channel the energy that japa can create.
Mala beads are SO in right now, bet lets learn more about what they actually are used for rather then just throwing them on before you run out the door to catch the sale on coconut water at Whole Foods (don't worry I have been one of those people too).
Frankie makes costume mala beads for students and helps them choose a piece that is rooted in a heartfelt intention for their lives. Check her out at: https://www.facebook.com/theshininghearts or Franceska Lavagii Yoga
We hope you can join us!!! To keep up to date with the event check, out the very official and important Facebook Event Page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/mantramondays
This is my life through the yoga lens. Join me in my lessons, journeys across the ocean, dancing with a wild heart, eating with a happy belly and flowing down this blissful path.