In Monday’s blog, I talked about the typical relationship we westerners have with yoga. Many of us view yoga solely as a physical practice—largely unconscious about the ways in which the spirit of yoga weaves itself into and yokes together all aspects of our lives. The yogic path offers far more than physical strength, flexibility and stamina. It is a path comprised of eight limbs or Sādhana. In the spirit of describing a very real, tangible example of yoga’s multi-dimensionality, I began to relay my experience at the Shantala Kirtan at the Phoenix Studio on Saturday, October 1st. Today, I continue that narrative and shift it into the present-tense—as if it continues to play out and inhabit my day-to-day life, as it has…
Seeing Heather—staring serenity in the face—I have a flash of recognition about that autumn lake. A rustling of leaves when the wind, momentarily, flutters onto the scene. How the lake responds in tiny waves, slipping and folding along the surface. All the while, I am still. As Heather is still amidst the buzz of “hello!”’s and the heat from all these gathering bodies, spirits.
Inside, my blood pressure lowers; a space in my lungs softens. As an over-achieving grad student—who often squeezes her yoga practice into 20-40 minute solitary sessions in her living room, between reading theory and writing papers—I have not experienced the soothing presence of a yogi in-the-moment (let alone a whole room of them) for quite some time. Heather is beautiful, a goddess.
The woman I wind up next to in the audience is beautiful, too. Stunning. Radiant. A body and spirit of peace and of love, she giggles and cuddles with her young daughter. Her dress spreads out like a flame around her lotus-ed legs. A lock of her hair slips from behind her ear as she leans into kiss her daughter’s cheek. Her body sways, gently rocks, as the room around her chants.
This is how the Kirtan works: they (Heather and Benjy) sing, we repeat; they sing, we repeat. Call and response. As Shantala explains on their website: “Kirtan is a celebration of spirit through the chanting of sacred names, carrying the audience into a state of heightened awareness, bliss, and devotion. The audience is invited to participate fully through call-and-response chanting, dance, and meditation.”
I remind myself to turn inward, too—to inhabit my own space of beauty. I close my eyes and repeat what I hear, echoing Heather and Benjy as if our voices are not separate, but one continuous sound that shifts, continuously from the front of the room to the back. Give, and take; give, and take. And for a moment, I connect with that warming and widening space around my ribs that spills into my belly and calms the flittering, fluttering, fluting dance that so-often happens there.
Then, the drums begin.
To be continued…