Yoga Culture Shock: Chanting

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I fell in love with yoga first as a physical practice, and secondly as a spiritual practice. I’ve always been hyper aware of my actions  (mostly a self conscious thing), so, you can imagine my discomfort when, in my first class those laying around me in corpse pose started breathing as if they were fogging up a large mirror with their mouth – ujjayi breath. I lay there thinking, “Yep, not for me.”

But, once the instructor got around to discussing how, if we just concentrate on keeping our breath steady, the rest will follow. So, that’s just what I did – breathe audibly through the pain.

When the class came to a close, the second bit of culture shock I experienced was chanting. I’ve never topped off a spin class with a unified chant, and wasn’t sure I wanted to start with yoga. For the first couple of classes, I just sat silent and still for fear my “Om” would be off key, or that I’d be too distracted by my own personal discomfort. After a few more classes, I got over myself and joined in the Om – what did I have to lose?

Chanting still isn’t my favorite thing, but I do like an occasional “Shanti” (for peace) and “Om” to close out a class. What I enjoy most is that I feel the practice of chanting connects me to age old practices from around the world.

Now that I’ve confessed my thoughts on chanting, I want to know yours. It seems to be part of the package you get when you sign up for a yoga class – but I wonder, is it for everyone? I’ve put together a little poll below to find out.

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2 responses »

  1. I totally understand this! I can still be shy about my “Om” voice, but have grown to love the collective vibration and rattling in my throat and chest. Yoga can feel so rewarding when I’m by myself, but so intimidating when I’m around others more familiar with the studio, teacher or practice. I just remind myself that we all have to start somewhere and a judgmental mat neighbor is missing the point of the practice.

    • Totally! It took me a while to break out of my shell and realize it was a “safe” place to chant — as awkward as I felt. I still feel weird about bringing friends who are new to yoga. I worry they might feel peer pressured to join in on the chanting.

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