I teach yoga. And I chant mantras. I just began teaching the class of my dreams at a gorgeous studio in the West Loop neighborhood in Chicago, Sat Nam Yoga. Recently I had a glorious opportunity there to feel like a total impostor.
My class is called Bhakti Flow Yoga — it’s the class of my dreams because I get to integrate hatha yoga postures, breath work, mantras, meditation and live music in order to help students (and myself) cultivate a deep sense of restoration and peace — that feeling where everything is right in the world and you are exactly where you need to be.
I learned this style from one of my best teachers, Govind Das, who’s based in Santa Monica, CA, where people are a little more open minded when it comes to singing out loud in a weird foreign language (Sanskrit) during a yoga class and talking about elephant-headed deities who can remove all your obstacles (come on, don’t we all want that?) than people are in the Midwest.
So I’m teaching one of my first Bhakti Flow classes and I have 3 students, all of whom are new to the studio and (as I discovered later) all of whom thought they were taking a regular hatha vinyasa class (no chanting.)
I introduced the style, the concept, the theme. I tried to make it easy by just starting with the mantra “om” and then after that, I’m not sure if anyone chanted with me at all. About 10min into class, I got SUPER self-conscious… “Oh my God, they hate this. Maybe it’s too weird. Maybe I should just skip the chanting for tonight and stick with a regular yoga class.”
Then a new voice entered my head (all of this while playing my harmonium and singing)… “No. Stick to your plan. This is Bhakti Yoga, dammit. Keep singing and chanting even if you’re the only one.“
So I proceeded with the class as planned.
I chanted mantras for Sita and Rama, integrating masculine and feminine energy, I offered asana (physical postures) and mantras (energetic postures) for heart-opening, and I sang to them in English in Savasana (the most delightful 10minutes of class at the end where you get to lie on the floor and do nothing.)
“True Love, there is no fear. Love, there is no fear here.”
~Kristin Luna Ray, Sita Ram from One Shared Heart
After class, two students left quickly. One woman lingered.
She asked what the style of class was. I explained briefly and then her tears started to flow as the mantras had brought up some deep sorrow that needed cleansing and release — emotional tension she had been holding on to without even realizing it. She had walked into a class she wasn’t expecting and found exactly what she needed.
And to think — I almost got lost in a moment of self-doubt and insecurity and we could have missed the opportunity for that beautiful opening.