Sunday, 3 April 2011

So what's with all the chanting?

M. thinks I'm turning into Crush ( from Finding Nemo) what with all the chanting and feeling the love. This is the same M who on having to choose between studying in the UK or the US chose England because of Monty Python. I suspect she likes her Englishmen cynical, ironic and mired in existential angst. The Dude from Venice is not what she bargained for.



So what is it with all the chanting?

First off, let me state categorically that I'm not drawn to 'Curtain's' and can't bare the hurdy gurdy ( I know, I know, harmonium but it's as irritating as a hurdy gurdy), thank heavens I'm a woodwind repairer and not..... actually, come to think of it perhaps it is woodwind. Anyway, I blame the French for bringing it to India in the first place.

I don't like Indian music, traditional or popular so certainly don't like modern treatments of chant, I like my chanting plain and simple.

I NEVER expecting to get into chanting at all, was always turned off the idea, I probably put off visiting a shala for a year because I thought you HAD to do the opening chant.

I came around to it by accident.

After coming across Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga a couple of years ago and exploring it a little I arranged to spend a few days learning the sequences from Steve of Harmony yoga, who'd taken Ramaswami's TT course in LA. He has a yurt as you may remember from an earlier post, ( I think I may have told this story already). So, we're in the Yurt and have gone through a couple of the sequences and are about done for the day. Steve has me lay down in Savasana and then begins to chant. This is a little awkward, thinks I, but actually quite pleasant. At the end of the week I asked Steve for some of the chants that had accompanied the earlier edition of Ramaswami's book.

One of the tracks was "Learning the pranayama mantra' and as I was working on pranayama with an iphone app already I decided to try and learn it. I started to listen to it while cycling in to work in the morning and before long I'd catch myself half humming, half singing, the ruddy thing throughout the day. Once I had it memorised and was using it in my pranayama practice there was no stopping me. I'd chant it cycling in to work, in supermarket queues, walking around on my lunch break.... I'd chant it to myself if something irritated me or if I was stressed with some vintage sax repair at work, it was relaxing... calming.

Coming around to chanting was probably the deciding factor that convinced me to go ahead and register for Ramamswami's TT course, the chanting element had put me off before. However, it's one thing chanting to yourself on your bike or in your head and quite another finding yourself in a mantra class in LA. I have a recording of part of the chanting the sutras class, M. was teasing me about it as every now and again you can hear me out of time and tune with everyone else in the class, clearly feeling exposed. But it's OK your in a group and there are always strong or enthusiastic chanters you can hide behind....mostly.

I don't think I've ever been that comfortable with OM, how do people keep OMing for so long? Some competitive nature's coming out there at times I think, bad yogi's. I do OM in the bath though and try and hit that note that makes the whole bathroom vibrate, you too, right? Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

What really turned me on to chanting was Ramaswami's chants while we were in Savasana at the end of asana class. He would have us lay there in that cavernous dance studio for five, ten sometimes twenty minutes chanting away and I loved it. Recently I came across a recording I made on the itouch and use it every morning. Remember when I was so proud of my minute and a half savasana? Not anymore, ten minutes every morning listening to my teacher chant away. Most morning I think I drift off for a couple of minutes and waking up for the last bit, refreshed and set for the day.

Now I chant whenever I get the chance, mantras, slokas, The yoga sutra's and just recently I started working on the Gita. And when Shiva gets restless and starts tearing this world of ours to pieces, the chanting, it helps a little.

Is it the sound of the Sanskrit? Possibly, although my all time favourite chant is in Tamil (Ganesha prayer). It may well be the rhythm, it's often what I'm drawn to first but perhaps it's partly to do with it's otherness, though not a Catholic I have a soft spot for Church Latin too. Either way, as I said, I like my chanting, clear, simple and straight forward......

or at least I did.



I spent the last couple of hours trying to trace the Ravi and George version of the chant from Ramaswami's newsletter, now I can't get the CD out of my head and Ravi is now, finally, on my ipod.

Where will it end.

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