Archive for June, 2015

Lotus Love Blog

My First Mantra

Posted on: June 24th, 2015 No Comments

by Laura

Laura Schadler

I have no memory of a time before my first mantra. It was two words my mom told my sister and me, a mantra from the lineage of yoga my parents practiced at the time. I forget exactly how she explained it to us, but it was clear the words were magical, and sacred. They were alive, and a way to call upon what we needed. I repeated them to myself every night as I fell asleep. I repeated them when I was anxious or worried, when I couldn’t sleep, when I wanted to be with myself in a certain sort of way, still and calm and separated from regular life. Coupled with this mantra was my mom’s instruction each night as she turned the lights off in our room and said, “Good night. Look for the light inside you.” I began to conflate these two actions, the repetition of my secret words, and the light inside me. I thought those words, repeated with devotion, called upon the light, dormant somewhere behind the darkness of my closed eyes. Then I thought I found it, of course, pressing on my eyelids until purple flares burst there. I was aware that perhaps this was cheating but I didn’t care. I contained these colors and lights, these sounds, and I had sensory proof. I echoed with all of it, repeated for years and years. In some ways I’ve never really stopped this mantra practice. My being echoes with the sounds of a lifetime spent whispering the words given to me by my mom.

Nada Yoga is the yoga of sound. It translates to “union through sound.” Like all yoga practice, this particular type of yoga contains everything, its own contradictions included. OM is the universal sound, containing all sounds. It is comprised of three syllables, but the fourth syllable is silence. And Nada Yoga works similarly. Nada Yoga is not exactly mantra. It is the inner sound, the silence. I have heard it described as the vibratory hum you hear right inside your ear when you are quiet. That sound you hear inside yourself is similar to breath, in that it can be a focal point of meditation, and a reminder of the fact that nothing is ever beginning nor ending. This sound is another manifestation of energy that was around long before us and will be around long after us. It is another layer of reminder. It is a place to return our attention. I find this tremendously comforting. I find it as comforting as the mantra my mother gave me all those years ago. The comfort comes from the reminder that we can call out, and when we do, we call out to all existence, and to ourselves.

There is so rarely silence in our lives. The moments we take to actively seek it, or the times when it finds us anyway, are true gifts. The moment in a yoga class after you chant OM, allow yourself to feel the vibration in the air as the room falls silent. That is Nada Yoga. It is often so palpable it seems to have a texture, as if everyone’s voice is sinking back down and re-entering us via some other form. You are feeling the fourth syllable of silence. For me, when I am in Child’s Pose or a forward fold, those are moments that call on Nada Yoga. At these moments of turning a bit more inward, we hear our own existence, the beat of our heart, and the sound of our breath, even the energy we have created through our practice moving silently (but not silent!) inside us.

That being said, I think the opposite of silence is part of our Nada Yoga practice as well. I have a Spotify playlist that is my home practice soundtrack. It is full of hundreds of songs, some quite yogic, and others quite not. I find myself often putting loud, dark songs on this playlist. Songs that are dissonant or jarring in some way. Songs I would never include on a playlist as a teacher because they might be disruptive or not quite right for the mood I am trying to create. But I love practicing to them by myself. When these songs come on I find myself more reminded of the visceral truths of myself and this body that I use to practice yoga. It is a wild, unlikely, and temporary place, this physical self. Sometimes I want to close my eyes and move and feel the sounds swirling and growing louder and louder all around me. This sensory experience is both profoundly physical and also not. Again it all returns to this idea of union, of oneness. There is no distinction. There are times in our practice when we more fully feel the truth of that, when it moves beyond words into an experience. For me, my music blasting, I often am able to enter that space.

My most recent mantra practice is with a long, healing mantra. It is a chant to Rama, who reminds us of our great power to heal ourselves. My new Rama mantra reminds me of my childhood mantra, the power it gave me to calm myself, to be present, to feel that I could call forth the light inside me. I am chanting this Rama mantra because of health issues I am having, in particular on my right side. And I love the symbolism of the sounds Ra and Ma. Ra is associated with the solar current that runs down the right side of our bodies and Ma with the lunar current that runs down the left. By repeating Rama we balance these two energy channels. I have chosen a particularly long mantra, which took me awhile to remember. I say it in formalized ways during meditation, but I also find myself whispering it on my bike, it is simply starting to be everywhere inside me: Om Apa-damapa Hataram Dataram Sarva Sampadam Loka Bhi Ramam Sri Ramam Bhuyo Bhuyo Namam-yaham. I sit, interlace my fingers, place them over my right side and chant this, sometimes aloud and sometimes silently. Bring your healing energy to the Earth, to the Earth, the mantra requests. I love the repetition of it. I feel the light inside me. I don’t have to press on my eyelids anymore to see it there. In the silence after my mantra is over, I breathe in and breathe out, and I listen to those final syllables.

Laura Schadler is a San Francisco based yoga teacher and fiction writer.


Sound is my meditation

Posted on: June 17th, 2015 1 Comment

by Nikki Borodi

Nikki

Music frees my spirit and calms my mind. It is my sanctuary that I crawl into, an energizing cocoon. When I sing there is a vibration that expands from my heart, vibrating to the tips of my fingers and toes.

Sound is my meditation. When the thoughts run past the place I can rein them in, it is my guaranteed way to still the ramblings of my mind. I find peace through a simple Om, a mantra, or a song that catches my attention on the radio. Through the sounds I focus on externally or the ones that I call from within, both allow me the opportunity to find my inner bliss. This form of meditation is instinctual. It can be a pacifier for a baby and an oasis for an adult.

For as long as I can remember I have run to music, as a listener and as a creator to settle or stir my heart. As a listener I can remember early heartbreak as I swayed to Bob Marley’s “Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” The sadness would dissolve as I danced to the sounds and sang along as a sweet healing. I find that listening to music will always be my refuge and place I re-energize. In the morning I use music that makes my spirit sing when trying to make my breakfast and get ready to kick off the rest of the day. Music wakes me up when I ask it to and brings me down a notch when that’s what I need.

As a maker of music, it is where I find the answers to things when I can’t quite formulate the question. It is where the swirling of uncertainty finds a voice and a safe container that I can make sense of it all. Just as some use journaling to work out their woes I use song writing. The beauty of this expression is that it comes at any emotional spectrum; it could be that I am sad, angry, enamored or empowered this medium has always served me more than any other. Entering into a space of song writing is a place I go to where I can channel the messages that are asking to be realized by me or by my audience. I am entranced in this connection to the divine that offers me the safety of a meditative zone.

Like yoga, music connects our spirit, mind, and body as it clears space and offers us the ability to be reborn moment by moment. Nada Yoga or union through sound offers a spiritual and mental cleanse that gives us an opportunity for transformation. How incredible it is that sadness can dissolve and inner strength can prevail through the experience of sound. For as long as beings have existed on this earth so has our connection to the sounds of nature and music that bring us closer to our own hearts and to mother earth.

Let it be a sanskrit mantra or Beyonce, dance and sing to your hearts content! Find your peace, find your play, and find your sanctuary.


The practice of connection

Posted on: June 10th, 2015 No Comments

by Valerie Starr
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One of my favorite by-products of being a yoga teacher is that for a duration of time we get to become DJ’s. I love digging through music sites, making playlists, and finding new songs to inspire. Music can be a great tool to drive your practice deeper and we are vibrational beings that respond to vibration. There is a beautiful connection that can occur between our body and soul when we resonate to sounds during a heart-opening experience such as yoga.

This practice of connection is called Nada Yoga.

When we consciously move our bodies in harmony with our breath we are attuning the internal vibration (anahata); when we dance to music, we move through the external vibration (ahata). The external and internal worlds have a hypnotizing, spiritual partnership that is evident in our bodies, our world and throughout the cosmos. We connect to this when we chant the sounds of Om.

This leads me into one of my favorite theories, entrainment, which is an aspect of sound that is closely related to the way rhythm affects us. Entrainment happens when one powerful rhythmic vibration of an object causes a less powerful vibration of another object to oscillate at the first objects rate.

We feel this when listening to a song and we start to tap our feet to the rhythm. Or, when a pendulum is swinging and syncs with another that was originally at a different pace.

In our body we are always in a state of entrainment as our heart rate, respiration and brain waves entrain each other. When we are flowing in the middle of a vinyasa and the music is playing, often times we feel like we are moving and synced with the music, tuning deeper into our breath. At the end of a class, when we are sitting in meditation and slowing our breath, our heartbeat starts to decrease as well. The same concept happens with music. When we listen to fast pace music our heart rate rises and when the sound is softer, our heart rate slows. A research paper by Doctors Janet and Hobart Landreth called “Effects of Music on Physiological Response” reported that heart rate changes were directly related to changes in tempo.”

Recently, I have been more aware of how important sound is now that I have been pregnant for nearly six months. To think that this little one inside of me is listening to not only my heart beat, but also my tummy growling, my respiration, and the outside sounds around me! (How crazy is that?!?) I find myself becoming more aware of what I say, the music I am listening to, the people I surround myself with, the conversations I have, the movies I watch, and even the thoughts that I have.

I am a lover of electronic music and it is often remarked by class-goers that my playlists makes people feel as if they are on the Burning Man playa in Black Rock City. However, I am not sure that my little one in utero is quite ready for that just yet. I have been finding softer versions of songs, and trading out dubstep for chillstep, Nine Inch Nails for the Rockabye Baby Lullaby version of Nine Inch Nails songs.

In his paper “On the Effects of Lullabies” Johannes Kneutgen reported on the soothing effects of lullabies played for infants and noted that breathing rhythms became synchronized with the rhythm of the music. Using the idea of Nada yoga connecting the outside vibration to the internal vibration I find it a beautiful way to not only find a deeper connection within myself, but also to this little Starr inside.


MANTRA: The Language of Divine Energy

Posted on: June 3rd, 2015 No Comments
by Alex Crow Alex Crow
For a Yoga practitioner in the Western world, singing out loud in the beginning or end of your yoga class might feel like the most terrifying thing you could do in your day. Perhaps you don’t find your voice to be that beautiful, or you don’t necessarily want to chant words in a language that you don’t yet understand. I remember those first few months practicing yoga at Laughing Lotus; I was skeptical of mantra chanting. Not only did it bring me back to semi-painful memories of singing hymns during Sunday Mass, but I also didn’t know what the words meant, so why would I sing them aloud? It wasn’t until my teacher at the time, Keith Borden, explained to us one morning, “Although Sanskrit is a ‘dead’ language, the vibration of each letter has a specific frequency; each sound vibrates with an aspect of the divine life source. The sounds are, in a sense, very much alive.” ummm… WHAT!? This may sound like some more of that fantastical, “woo woo” talk, but the fact is that the chanting of Sanskrit mantra is deeply rooted in the Yogic tradition that dates back thousands of years, and just as the practice of Yoga is a practical and scientific application, the practice of mantra is an aspect of the science of sound, or Nada Yoga. Russill Paul, in his text The Yoga of Sound, describes Nada Yoga as the sacred practice of using sound as a path to the divine. But what is sound and how is it beneficial to our lives? Sound as we receive it, is the reception of waves of vibration and the perception of said vibrations by the brain. More specifically, using mantra is particularly effective because both the palate and the inner ear function as “blueprints for the body’s nervous system”. Paul continues to say that the different mouth positions, length of breath and inflection of the voice all have an impact on the subtle body and brain, which in turn have their impact on the physical form and it’s well being. In fact, Sanskrit was constructed for the purpose of stimulating the higher consciousness available through verbal communication. “The rich phonetics employed in the language and the varying complexity of tongue placement stimulate a variety of energy frequencies. These ‘asanas of the tongue’ have direct health benefits because they serve to stimulate the pituitary gland located just millimeters away from the roof of the palate.” (russillpaul.com) From a less scientific approach, we can experience how releasing sound has a positive effect on our health. Whether it be the release of a sigh, the feeling of laughter in our bodies, or belting out to your favorite Beyonce track, we all know how good it can feel to let our voices free. It truly is a release, an expression of an internal experience. On the other side of the coin, we also know how heavy it can feel when we keep our voices tightly held inside, withholding the truth of expression. It has been said many times before, “the truth with set you free”, and while I do not condone preaching your truth all around town, I do support behaving from a place of healthy authenticity, allowing oneself to speak honestly, while also making room for silence. For it is in silence where true listening can be experienced. For instance, when I allow myself to be truly present and receptive with a friend, or even an animal, I can hear and feel into the more subtle vibrations of what they are truly saying. It is in the silence and spaciousness of the present moment where the divine energy can truly be heard. Everything in this physical world is vibrating all of the time. From the subtlest humming of plants, to the enormous rhythms of planets, everything buzzes to it’s own tune, including you and I! When you feel attracted to something or someone, you are resonating with that. Of course the opposite is also true, that when you feel resistant or repulsed, there is a lack of resonance–in essence, the frequencies aren’t matching…yet. In this sense, we can gather information about ourselves, and how we are vibrating, by kindly observing what we are or are not attracted to, as well as who or what is attracted (or not) to us. We can ask ourselves, how do I want to move through the world? What do I wish to resonate with? Most importantly, how do I come into harmony with the truth of who I am? The practices of Yoga each act like tuning forks, each vibrating at different frequencies, bringing us into harmony and resonance with our own bodies, minds, breath, emotion, and most essentially our divine nature, or as some phrase it, “the truth of who you are.” Mantra, to put it simply, is another tool to help us along our spiritual path towards internal resonance and harmony with the Divine. Mantras to try: 1. OM: the primordial sound. The sound of Brahman (the Divine Source/Mystery). Calling out the sound of OM for an extended period of time has been shown to calm the mind, lowering blood pressure and decreasing anxiety/depression. In India, we chanted OM for thirty minutes every morning as the sun rose on the ashram…a beautiful practice, but we are not in India. If you can’t fit 30 minutes of OM Chanting into your daily practice, try 5 minutes of focused chanting; it doesn’t matter how long you practice, but how intentional you are. 2. Om Nama Shivaya: “I bow down and honor the teacher within myself.” This is a well-known Sanskrit phrase that has much power and resonance. Shiva is known as many things including meditator and destroyer of ignorance, but I like to see him as the dancer…he who dances through life with ease and fierce grace. Shiva reveals that which is sometimes hidden, shedding light through ignorance, teaching us and guiding us back home into union. He is the teacher that we find within ourselves. 3. Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu: “May all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering.” This mantra is painted outside the walls of Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in SF, and I find this to be a mantra for the heart, as it aids in our connection and compassion for others. This mantra chanted at any time of day carries lightness with it, helping us to release stress and any feelings of separateness or isolation. Hari Om!

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