Tag Archives: chanting

An introduction to chanting

I don’t know much about chanting – but I enjoy doing it.  In September, when my class starts up again, I thought I would invite my students to learn something about chanting with me.  I know many people are self conscious about doing this in a class, so I propose that we all do it at home and one day, if we are feeling big and brave, we can try it together.  I’ve written a hand-out for my class.  Here it is:-

MANTRAS – Words of Power!

I have some mantras for you to try at home.  We’ll go over the pronunciation together, and you can practise in private.  Eventually, if you feel brave, we can chant it in class.

The first mantra is for the removal of obstacles in your life and it’s

OM GUM GANAPATAYEI NAMAHA

The thing about mantras is not to get hung up about what they mean.  (This one is an invocation to Lord Ganesh – also called Ganapata. He’s an elephant god.  If you want to remove obstacles, send in an elephant). A mantra is ‘a mystical energy encased in a sound structure.  Its vibrations directly affect the chakras, or energy centers of the body.  It steadies the mind and leads to the stillness of meditation.’[1]

It’s the sound of the language (Sanskrit is exceptionally sonorous) and the effect of the sound on your mind and body.  Sound makes your cells do the boogie-woogie, you learn to control your breathing, and getting your teeth round a Sanskrit mantra 108 times concentrates the mind.

Ah yes … I forgot to mention the 108 times.  108 is a very significant number: I was taught that 1 = Supreme Energy (or God, if you are religious); 0 = completeness and 8 = the sign for infinity.  However, I’ve attached something by Swami J (I recommend Swami J) – so you can see there are all sorts of reasons for 108.  (I should say, it is permissible to build up to 108 in chunks.  27 rising to 54 is usually do-able when you are beginning).

Lastly, I’m going to give you a link to a YouTube video – nothing happens on it, but it is the wonderful Deva Premal performing this chant 108 times. I sing along with Deva every morning.

https://youtu.be/OTFWfD7L5QA

There is also the late, but wonderful, Thomas Ashley Farrand (you may have to buy him from Amazon or Sounds True, as I can’t find him on YouTube at the moment).

If it turns out you enjoy chanting, you can invest in a string of Mala beads. There are 108 beads on a string, plus one bead called Mount Meru.  You count your chants with the beads, and when you reach Mount Meru, you turn the beads round and go the other way.

Here’s the link to Swami J explaining the reasons for 108 Mala beads.

http://www.swamij.com/108.htm

Chant and be happy. xxx

[1] Meditation and Mantras, by  Swami Vishnu-Devananda

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A lesson in the Sivananda tradition

I spent a lovely morning yesterday at a class offered in the Sivananda tradition by Helen, another local teacher here in mid Wales.

Founded by Swami Sivananda,  the spread of Sivananda Yoga in the west is a direct result of the travels of his enthusiastic pupil,  Swami Vishnudevananda.   Swami Vishnu established ashrams and yoga centres all over the west, offering classes retreats and teacher training courses.  Since establishing the first western Yoga Teacher Training course in 1969, 30,000 teachers have been trained in the Sivananda tradition.

Swami Vishnu condensed the many separate classic yoga texts into five, simple rules for living:-

Proper exercise;

Proper breathing;

Proper diet;

Proper relaxation and

Positive thinking and Meditation.

He also radically pruned the number of asanasa to a core of 12.

1. Sirshasana – (Headstand)

2.Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)

3.  Halasana (Plough)

4.Matsyasana (Fish)

5.Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

6. Bhujangasana (Cobra)

7. Salabhasana (Locust)

8. Dhanurasana (Bow)

9. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist)

10.  Kakasana (Crow)

11.  Pada Hasthasana (Standing Forward Bend)

12.  Trikonasana (Triangle)

Between postures the practitioner rests in Savasana.  I particularly like this because when I first began yoga in the 1980s my then teacher (trained at the Iyengar Institute) would always suggest that we rested in between postures in order to assimilate the practice.

There is also great emphasis on chanting in the Sivananda tradition.  I am quite new to chanting, but I very much enjoy  it, and I’m hoping to expand my knowledge of it in the future.  There is a wonderful power in many voices making the same sound, especially if there are both men and women chanting, which expands the range considerably.

I was interested to learn that pranayama is normally practiced at the beginning of a Sivananda Class (apparently in the early days students would do their asana practice and then leave, so Swami Vishnu moved the pranayama work to early on in the session).

After a guided relaxation, we finished with more chanting and a short period of meditation.

Namaste.

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