|Deva Premal and Miten bring yoga mantras to beautiful life in melodies we can all chant.|
Several years ago, I trained to become a yoga teacher and on the last day of “school,” we graduating students had a special treat – Deva Premal and Miten came to the studio on Miami Beach. It just so happened that my “final exam” – teaching a full 60-minute class – was right before the arrival of these two amazing performers who would sing with us in the cozy studio space.
My class went well, but I must admit there were a few jitters. We were all eager with anticipation to sing with Deva Premal and Miten at this kirtan-style community sing.
I remember one exercise quite clearly: we had to walk around the room in circular fashion, honoring the person before us by holding hands in prayer position, silently expressing “namaste” while chanting a mantra. Have you ever looked into someone’s eyes deeply while singing? It’s unnerving, but very powerful. It breaks down walls.
Namaste means “the light and love in me honors the light and love in you and because of this, we are one.” It’s a universal expression of peace and compassion.
Chanting mantras was always a special component of all my classes thereafter. Yoga isn't just about poses. It's about expressing peace and compassion and sometimes when we're afraid to vocalize, we hold things in.
Eventually, I did create a voice, through this blog.
I still teach yoga, just not poses.
Anyone can learn the mechanics of a pose. But can you learn getting in touch with your heart? Voice might be the way.
I don’t consider myself a singer, but the whole purpose of mantras is that anyone can do it, even if your voice sucks. The repetitive sounds help to focus the mind and to decrease stress, which puts you (hopefully) in a more peaceful state of being. This really isn’t some esoteric trick – all major spiritual practices include vocalization for that very reason.
And we also do it in ritual -- rosaries, mala beads and other prayer traditions that involve repetitive action.
I was raised a Catholic and sang the same songs over and over again at church on Sundays. In high school, when I studied music in a formal manner, I’d sing a song about peace with a Jewish friend. We were surprised we grew up with the same melody, although her words were in Hebrew and mine in Spanish. But the syllables matched perfectly. Shalom and paz were two words we shared in our hearts.
We still do.
Music is primal. It unites us. It brings us back to ourselves. It is about rejoicing from the heart space and creating something sacred in such a simple way.
But it doesn’t have to be so deep. Just sing in the shower. Sing in the rain. Just sing.
Listening to Deva and Miten chant this weekend in Miami brought back a beautiful flood of memories.
And it means a lot more to me now, because my mother has Alzheimer’s and music is one of the few things that make her light up. It’s as if that precious part of her memory remains untouched. She hums melodies and perfectly in tune.
And so I remembered the power of music to uplift out of spaces that are sometimes silent and dark, when memory begins to fail. The therapeutic value of chanting (or singing whatever you love) is, as far as I’m concerned, incredibly undervalued. No pill can replace belting out to your heart’s content.
We all have voice.
And we also “travel” at the speed of sound – our heartbeats and the music within us. The music we know instictively from the moment our hearts start beating in the womb.
My weekend ended at an unrelated event, where a little girl who aspires to become a singer befriended me. She was shy; I encouraged her to sing. Her voice was a bit croaky at first, but she reminded me of my mom and how that melody she was singing flowed like a spring of hope. Yeah, I know that sounds corny. But when your mom doesn’t remember much except melodies, it all makes sense.
Sing, chant, hum, whistle, dance, laugh -- whatever makes you happy. Silence is golden but so is music. The heart is a musical instrument. Don’t neglect it.
Honor your song from the heart.
I am grateful to these musicians for reminding me of that special lesson.
Deva Premal and Miten, along with flute player Manose, will be on tour through the U.S. and Canada in the coming weeks. I was granted a complimentary ticket to experience the amazing concert, which I highly recommend. All opinions my own. More information at Deva Premal and Miten. Photo courtesy of website.