The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

Wine & Kirtan April 9, 2010

I just got home from “The Chant Super Tour” concert with Kirtan musician Krishna Das and spiritual singer Deva Premal.  Although I like her lullaby-like versions of Santeria chants for Yemaya and Oshun, and I don’t mind hearing her music in yoga classes, Deva’s work is a little too soft for me.  Tonight I enjoyed her partner Miten’s and her version of a Gospel blues song (with an astonishingly hot flute solo by Nepalese accompanist Manose) – but I couldn’t wait for the second act.

Because Krishna Das packs a strong punch.

During his Bhaja Govindam chant, I was clapping so hard that my arms tingled through the entire next song.  At the end of his set, I had no idea what time it was and I barely felt the surprisingly cold rain as I walked to my car.  Although he encouraged the audience not to leave the wholeness of the world around us to float off to a separate “spiritual” experience, it was definitely hard to not be swept away.

Aside from this event, I’ve seen a few concerts over the past couple of weeks.  (I swear this will relate back to Kirtan.)  I saw Wilco at the Strathmore in North Bethesda (formerly known as Rockville to those of us who grew up around here), and David Gray at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore.  Being a non-drinker who mostly hangs out in non-drink-centric places, I found it jarring to walk into the lobbies of both venues and smell the overpowering scent of alcohol.  No judgment, honestly.  It’s simply jarring.  As a non-drinker.

As a non-drinker and a yogini, it’s even more jarring to walk into a Kirtan concert and be hit in the face with that same smell.  And to smell it reeking on people’s breath while they sang and sweating from their pores as they danced.   At one point, I noticed that I was barely breathing while chanting, because I was so tired of inhaling alcohol fumes.  And you know me – I’m a huge breather.  Pranayama all the way.  But not tonight.

So it was a weird experience.  And I just thought I’d share about it a bit before going to bed.

Something I definitely appreciated from Deva was her description of Sanskrit chants as powerful medicine.  This reminded me of when I used to participate in Native American sweat lodge ceremonies – and the elders would warn newcomers not to “mix medicines.”  In other words, some people thought it would be cool to get high before doing a sweat lodge; and the elders explained the dangers of mixing “medicines” that had different purposes.  Drugs having one purpose (no need to explain), and the lodge having quite another (praying like heck while purifying intensely).

So tonight, while I understood that some people like to relax with a glass of wine (or something), I wondered what their experience would have been like had they simply allowed the power of Sanskrit mantras to create that relaxation.  Kirtan’s purpose is to express devotion to a Higher Power and it is a form of Bhakti yoga; while wine’s purpose…

Anyway.  As we chanted our powerfully medicinal songs, I wished the elders were there to share their warning.  Without their guidance, even I might not have thought about the significance of keeping medicines separate.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

(PS: Yes I know that this is more attitude-y than my typical posts.  I know that not everyone experiences yoga in the same way.  Personally, I’m gratefully accustomed to and really appreciate yoga spaces being free of other “medicines.”  Can you say “Eight Limbs?”  Goodnight now.)

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Chakra Chant March 21, 2010

As part of our Bi-Monthly Focus of TRANSITION & BALANCE, we’ve been closing classes with a chakra balancing meditation I learned from Corrine Champigny who teaches the blissful Svaroopa Yoga sessions at Nashville’s Yoga Source studio.  http://www.yogasource.info/index.php

We have seven energy centers, aka chakras, along our spine, from the tail bone to the crown of the head.  Each has its own function, significance, symbolism.  Typically, we burn up a lot of energy exercising the basic functions near the lower three chakras (eating, digesting, eliminating, being sexual, reproducing, and so on) while our higher chakras (from the devotional heart center to the pure consciousness of the crown) are a bit underutilized.

Similar to the practice of Kundalini yoga, this meditation intends to raise the energy from the base of the spine and evenly distribute it along all seven energy centers.

To practice this chant, we sit in a meditative pose and – starting with the root chakra and continuing through the crown – we focus our awareness on each energy center while chanting its corresponding seed mantra.  Each seed mantra sounds like “OM” (the crown chakra mantra), with an additional sound at the beginning of the syllable.  Complete instructions are below and posted on the Tips-n-Tools page.

To flesh out the very brief descriptions of and associations for each chakra below, I really like Wikipedia’s Chakra entries.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakras

As with all of the Tips-n-Tools I share in this blog, I only intend to share the practices and resources that have helped me in one way or another – practices that teachers have generously passed on.  I hope you find something useful!

OM Shanti.

CHAKRA CHANT

  1. Settle – Sit in a comfortable seated pose, lower body grounded, spine long, heart open.
  2. Breathe – Inhale into the belly, fill the ribs, and then breathe up to the collar-bone.  Exhale and release from the collar bone, ribs and belly.  Continue this deep three-part breathing throught the nostrils until the mind and body relax.
  3. 1st Chakra – Bring the awareness to the base of the spine, the point of rootedness and the area of elimination.  The seed mantra for this chakra is “L-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “LOM.”
  4. 2nd Chakra – Shift the awareness to the base of the spine, toward the front of the body, near the reproductive organs.  The seed mantra for this chakra is “V-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “VOM.”
  5. 3rd Chakra – Move the awareness to the belly, the area of digestion.  The seed mantra here is “R-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “ROM.”
  6. 4th Chakra – Raise the awareness to the heart center, our area of love and devotion.  The seed mantra is “Y-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “YOM.”
  7. 5th Chakra – Lift the awarness to the base of the throat, our center of communication.  The seed mantra is “H-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “HOM.”
  8. 6th Chakra – Focus the awareness on the “Third Eye,” the area between the brows, our center of intuition.  The seed mantra is “SH-OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “SHOM.”
  9. 7th Chakra – Rest the awareness on the crown of the head, our center of pure consciousness.  The seed mantra is “OM.”  Inhale deeply then chant one long “OM.”
  10. Sit silently for a little while and enjoy the raising vibrations.