I’ve had a sore throat for weeks now. It started when I was on holiday in Canada and has persisted. The accompanying cold disappeared weeks ago, but I’m still croaky. “It’s psychosomatic” one of my yogi friends told me rather brusquely. Yogis can be so annoying right?! My teacher joked (I think it was a joke!) that I needed to do more chanting and let it all out. Hubby’s diagnosis, conversely, is too much chanting — though he may have been talking about his earache rather than my sore throat!! 🙂 After all this, when I finally get bored enough with it to go to see the doctor, I almost won’t be surprised if she tells me it’s an imbalance in the Visshuddha Chakra!
Whatever the psycho-somatic origins or otherwise of my sore-throat, it’s sure feeling rough now. And deservedly so. I had some yogi friends round to join in some mantra chanting practice with me this afternoon and somehow they ended up staying for three hours!
It was such a beautiful time. I miss these girls; we did our TT together and I try to see them as often as I can, but busy life being what it is, that’s never as much as I’d like. And you can’t have the really deep conversations over a quick coffee. Sometimes you need the luxury of time. I had been really nervous about this (can that really cause a chronic sore throat??): I’m very shy and not very musical and I hate being the centre of attention, but somehow I felt I wanted to share with them this aspect of my practice — so time to overcome my reticence and performance-anxiety and offer them something I believe in. It felt like a big leap, but a good one.
So with big leaps in mind we started with Shri Ram Jai Ram and I talked a little about Hanuman’s devotion to Rama and what a bhakti practice might mean. We segued into the Hare Krishna mantra where I ended up distracting us all by talking about the Beatles and an extemporised soliloquy about over-familiarity or over-exposure eroding the true meaning of things (the Hare Krishna mantra is too well known; yoga asanas are everywhere on IG) — we have to dig deep to discover their true essence for ourselves because we are easily influenced by the popular view and superficial presentation. I don’t know where that came from…
Then someone mentioned the Gayatri, so we looked at that. They claimed familiarity, but didn’t actually know the words, so I wrote a transliteration on the little whiteboard I use sometimes in teaching, and I gave them a few translations, helping them with the Sanskrit pronunciation before we chanted. Finally we wrapped up with asato ma sad gamaya, which is my current favourite and really nice to close with, getting quieter with reach repetition until we were whispering and then simply enjoying the shared silence.
Between times we had discussion about what enlightenment might mean, what mantra practice might be about, and I ended up talking a lot about the relationship of asanas and mantras (it turns out this is something I feel quite passionately about). I wish I knew what I said… I remember something about the intermittent experience of Adho Mukha Svanasana truly as a resting posture rather than a muscular hold not negating all other experiences of that asana, just as one must allow the meaning of mantras to reveal themselves gradually through time and be patient while our insight deepens. Yoga is where we are now, bringing out best efforts and awareness, not waiting for tomorrow to be good enough. Abhyasa and vairagya popped into my mind and out of my mouth…. Someone asked: was asana practice inherently tamasic because it involved the physical body and all that stuff about groundedness and anatomy could feel very heavy…?
It was a pretty intense experience for me. Did I offer too much or too little of my personal practice, was my chanting harmonious enough, did I explain enough about the mantras for them to settle into chanting without getting too intellectual? I hadn’t really thought too much about how to present anything, I was too freaked out at the mere idea of ‘singing’ in front of people. In the event I confess I’m slightly in awe of the knowledge that I seem to have acquired, that I am comfortable enough now to share, that these beautiful women who began their practice before I’d even heard of yoga seemed to value my opinion on deep issues relating to the practice.
Before they left they said they wanted to do it again! I guess that tells me everything I needed to know but couldn’t ask. Couldn’t ask because I needed to let my offering just to be what it was, not because I had lost my voice completely! 🙂