To Om or Not to Om

I took my usual Friday class at Yoga Shanti today. The usual teacher I go to, Jamie Lugo, wasn’t there but the sub was great – Ali Cramer. We flowed through some great sun salutations and really warmed up our bodies – very necessary in this cold insanity that has been winter in NYC.

We chanted “OM” three times to start the class and another three times to close it out. The woman next to me didn’t participate either time. Her asanas were beautiful – she was well aligned and got deeper in to some poses than I was able to. But I found it very interesting that someone who clearly has a pretty regular yoga practice wouldn’t participate in chanting. The people who refrain from chanting are usually newer to the practice. Unless she is some sort of reincarnated yogi, she must have been doing this for a while. But only focusing on the postures and none of the other aspects of yoga.

I think the hardest part about chanting is that you really have to go all in to feel the benefits. Quietly saying OM to yourself isn’t really going to work. You have to take a deep breath, get out those A U and M sounds and get that reverberation going in your center body.

For some reason, this all made me think of the Ryoan-Ji temple in Kyoto – pictured above. In the stone garden, there are 15 boulders. They are positioned such that you can only ever see 14 at a time. It is said that only by reaching true enlightenment can one see all 15. Of course, I shimmied and shook all over the place trying to find that one angle where I could see them all because clearly I know better than the monks.

In the same temple there is a basin for the ritual washing of the hands and mouth – for the monks only, not me and you. Surrounding the basin are carved symbols that read: I learn only to be contented. I love this. It speaks to me so directly. I LOVE to learn. Not to get a better, higher paying job. Although I’m always in the market for one of those – ping me on LinkedIn! Learning is the expansion of the mind. It is the chance for your brain to travel, to be pushed, to exercise that great big muscle rolling around in our skulls. OK – I went too far.

All this is to say, give chanting a try. You may like it. You may not – but at least you will know for sure. And you don’t know better than the monks.



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