Chanting is asana for the heart.
- Ram Dass
Way back when, I was mortified to chant in yoga class. I'm not going to lie - I don't have a great voice. I mean, I can be loud for sure, I can express myself verbally no problem, but it just doesn't sound like music to anyone's ears. So, chanting in my first yoga classes took me back to junior high tryouts for choir and never seeing my name on the 'made it' list. I went along with it, but only when I knew that the other voices in the room would carry my weak little warble along with them. If the class was small, my heart rate would jump with fear when the instructor announced we'd be chanting OM. I do also remember one day that we sang row row row your boat, and thought that was sort of fun...but other than that, not my fondest yoga memories.
I'm a reformed non-chanter. I LOVE it now. I think over ten years of developing my voice through teaching in all kinds of situations has helped. Or maybe it's just gotten better with age...but I can feel that my voice is stronger. Every once in awhile I croak, but it doesn't mortify me like it used to. And chanting is a big part of Jivamukti yoga, which if you follow this blog, you know is where I started my yoga practice and where I just spent a lot of time practicing in London the first half of this year. Chanting felt cleansing, healing, powerful. I liked how I sounded, how it made me feel. I will confess to being a wee bit jealous of the beautiful voices my teachers there had, and wishing I was not "missing" this component in what I have to offer as a yoga teacher.
This past weekend on our Cowgirl Yoga Ranch Camp
, after our last yoga practice one of the women asked me why some teachers chant and others, like me, do not. I may have made great strides in my attitude towards chanting, but it's quite rare for me to lead one when I teach. I answered her honestly about my voice insecurity, and - shocker - then I actually asked her and the group if they would like to chant. They said yes. And guess what - I didn't freak out! I belted out OM, they joined, and it felt so wonderful that we added two more. I was proud that after all these years teaching, I finally led a confident chant. And you know what? I think it may have even sounded a bit nice. Namaste.