To Chant or Not to Chant?

photo (2)

Believe me, if you are sitting in the back of a studio hoping no one will notice that you are not chanting, I can totally relate. For the first 15+ years I practiced yoga I refused to even OM. I thought it was awkward and strange. By the time I decided to become a certified teacher I had tried pretty much every possible style, temperature and level of class available to me, still I had not uttered a peep during a class OM. I decided to jump in with both feet and enrolled myself in a teacher training program that was way outside of my comfort zone and included lots of chanting. I spent three months chanting hours a day. Soft and timid at first but eventually I was fully committed and I LOVED it! One of the most valuable yoga insights I continue to learn through my practice is that aversion to something can often be one of the biggest obstacles of any path.

I can honestly say chanting changed my life. I’m not here to tell you about vibrations, or opening chakras. I’m just here to tell you the experience of a converted chanter.

The Top Five Benefits I have seen first hand from chanting:

1. Increased Confidence as a Yoga Teacher.

Many new teachers (including myself) are nervous and anxious before teaching classes. I began chanting thirty minutes to an hour before each class and within a week I was confident enough to forget I was ever nervous. At a recent workshop I was teaching, (with several yoga teachers in attendance who had learned this chanting practice from me) I posed the question ‘who here was nervous as hell their first few times teaching?’ All the teachers raised their hands. I asked ‘who here tried chanting before each class to put themselves at ease?’ All the teachers raised their hands. So I continued with ‘who here still gets nervous?’ All agreed it took around a week of chanting pre-class to get over their jitters. Chanting also brings an element of Bhakti yoga into your practice and that just feels damn good and authentic.

2. Free Plane Tickets.

Yes, I have experienced this! I found a Yoga Therapy Program in Mysore India called the Atmavikasa Centre of Yogic Science. I was sure this school was for me and spoke to the teacher, Acharya Venkateshawhom told me all I had to do was come. This possibility seemed to be in the very distant future for a full-time, fully broke Hatha yoga teacher. Immediately after our brief conversation I went to the beach and without attachment to a specific outcome I chanted my little butt off and left feeling content. Within 4 days I was gifted a plane ticket and a full scholarship! Chanting helps to keep us on our path. It also helps us to be less distracted by doubt or expectations, which allows energy to flow without resistance as you begin living your destiny. Trust without expectation that the universe will provide and in my experience it does. The interesting thing is we have to let go of all possible outcomes. Had I chanted for enough classes to be able to save the money I needed to go to India it would have taken me years to get there. Understanding that the universe has a far better plan then we could possibly conceive is part of the magic of chanting.

3. Free Money.

Also during my ‘just getting by’ teaching era, Ronaldo my senior rescue Doodle came upon rough medical times. The bills added up until eventually I was $500 overdrawn at the vet. I went immediately to the beach and chanted for an hour. The very next day I received a cheque in the mail for exactly $500 from the Primer of Alberta at the time, Ralph Cline. A tax credit from the time I had spent living in Alberta many years earlier. When I became a yoga teacher, before the time of ‘celebrity yogis’, I dedicated myself to teaching with humble expectations of what I could possibly earn. I accepted modest living as part of the territory when pursuing your passion. I saw my share of financial and physical struggles in the early years of bike riding to 15 different classes per week. Having a limited food budget and very few trips to see family and friends was challenging, though I always had enough of what I needed. Through gratitude and perseverance of an authentic practice including chanting all of my financial obstacles have been removed. There was a time in my life pre-teaching where I dreamed of a time when I could afford to have any type of cheese I wanted without even thinking twice about it…those days have come!

4. Your Voice Improves.

Not only can I project my voice so much that my husband often has to remind me after class that it is now time to switch to my inside voice. I also think I sound more clear and harmonious now. Perhaps that could be credited to benefit number one, more confidence, but just like my asana (yoga pose) practice has improved over the years I believe my singing and speaking voice has greatly improved with the practice of chanting. I was always afraid to have my voice be heard and now I lead Kirtan without even a moment’s hesitation. My voice has also built up the stamina required to teach full-time with minimal strain.

5. Improves Concentration & Decreases Stress

I believe Sanskrit to be one of the hardest languages in existence, so call and response chanting requires a lot of mental concentration. When you’re focusing very intently on words, pronunciation, tone and pitch so you can repeat the chant back accurately, it is impossible to think of what may be stressing you out. This beneficial practice teaches us to still the mind and be able to control our mind, stopping us from obsessing about real and unreal situations.

If you’re still not sure, just give it a shot! No one cares if your Sanskrit is perfect… mine sure as hell is not and I have experienced amazing results!!! Was your triangle pose perfect the first time you tried it? Heck no and it’s not perfect today but it sure feels good and is great for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual heath. So is chanting, so give it a good solid chance and experience it for yourself. Chanting makes the amazing feeling you get when you sing along with your favourite song on the radio feel like small potatoes in comparison to the heart warming vibration of chanting.

Try these links to some fun & modern chants to start with… they are easier than you think.

Krishna Das -Sita RamJai Uttal – Ganesh Sharanam Kirtan ChantOng Namo by Snatam KaurHara Hara Mahaadeva – Krishna Das

Or Join us @ MY Studio

YOGA BAND!! FUN & FREE!

Happy Chanting !

XoOxOXoOXoXo Michelle

 

 

Teacher Training Essays :: Christina Corazza

AWARENESS OF EXPECTATION

“To live life without expectation, without the need for specific results, that is freedom.” –Neale Donald Walsh

            There comes a time in life where you realize that most things you once knew turn out to be different.  I have always lived a very structured and disciplined life, one with lots of plans and timelines.  I never really understood how much expectations controlled the emotional outcome of a situation, but I did know that disappointment usually led to me beating myself up for an unexpected conclusion.  By being attached to a specific outcome means that if that outcome doesn’t happen it brings disappointment.  In this past year, I have become aware of the role of expectations and attachments; for me, the two go hand-in-hand.  Expectation leads to disappointment, almost always!  Perception is another thing I have learned a lot about in the past year; I have learned that it is a very individual thing.  Each person perceives things differently because each of us has different experiences and it is through those experiences that help mould us into who we are and where we approach situations from.  If we blindly assume everyone else is going to see things the way we do, there is a good chance we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.

            The yamma Satya represents truthfulness; through understanding this yamma, I have come to know that in life each individual has their own “truth” based on their own experiences.  Also that our truth changes as we change; in fact, the only thing constant is change.  It is through this process that we evolve as human beings and we develop a better understanding of the world around us.  One of my biggest challenges, which has arisen through this understanding, is accepting that it is all a learning process and learning to not be too hard on myself when something doesn’t turn out exactly as I wanted it to.  Recognizing that “this too shall pass” and knowing that that applies to both the positive and the negative; above all, learning to live with the flow and learning to let go.  It is important to exercise Tapas, right energy and discipline, to ensure that energy doesn’t get wasted on expectations, wants and/or manifestations.  Instead, putting energy into focusing on our own personal needs the universe will provide all the rest, as necessary.

Aparigraha, non-attachment, is vital to understanding expectations.  It is through practicing non-attachment that we learn to let go of any preconceived outcome and learn to welcome the unknown.  I admit that I am very attached to my yoga practice; it is something that is very important to me.  I have come to realize that if for some reason I have to miss a class, that doesn’t make me a bad student, in fact the contrary may be true; being open to whatever comes my way can prove to be just as fulfilling.  There is a sense of comfort in that which we can control, however by learning to shed expectations and accept the unknown we can achieve greater contentment and comfort.

Santosha, or contentment with ourselves and others, comes from acceptance.  Eckhart Tolle said, “When you complain you become a victim, either leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”  Contentment roots from attitude, positive thinking, acceptance and recognizing that what we have is enough.  Through contentment comes happiness.

This past year has been full of understanding and transition.  I have learned a lot about my life and myself; it isn’t easy working through this stuff but so far it is proving to be very worth it.  I am learning to be patient with myself and those around me as I try to integrate this new information into my relationship with myself, with others, and into my yoga practice.  I am also trying to apply it to all aspects and situations as they arise.  No, it isn’t easy! Yes, I do stumble sometimes but I am also trying to learn to not feel penalized when things don’t work perfectly; instead, taking it as an experience to learn and grow from.  Realizing that nothing can change overnight and that the only way to get better at something is through practice; most important is to recognize where you are at and to accept that.  As Amy Steinberg said, “I am exactly where I need to be. I need to be exactly where I am.”

Yoga Camp 2013

Wow!! What an AmAzINg 10 days on Cortes Island!!! We could not have asked for better weather & Fun people to share the experience with. The Kamloops crew proved to be up for a challenge on the mat, keen to get down on the dance floor at Mansions Hall to Oba ( the World renowned African Rhythms group we see annually on Cortes), & became a welcome, appreciated part of our expanding community.  Thanks to everyone who made Yoga Camps the best year ever!!! Some of the highlights for me were sailing through Desolation Sound, canoeing from Linnea to Hague lake, UNLIMITED OYSTERS @ Hollyhock, fantastic food shared with friends & making new incredible friends. To see new  and old students embrace the lessons on and off the mat and grow before my eyes is truly a blessing.

A big warm Thank you to all those who were part of Yoga Camp this Year! I am so so grateful to have you all in my life.

XxOOXOoXoOXOXo Michelle

PS ( the farm has approved our proposal to donate and construct out door showers!!!! which we hope to have operational by next season!!! )