As a yoga teacher for the past 17 years, I am earthy as opposed to “airy fairy.”
I use my normal tone of voice when teaching, although I can don the granola hippie role with authenticity too.
Chanting with mala beads, using essential oils for homemade deodorant, and brewing kombucha in a tiny house in the woods have become my reality.
I currently live, write, and teach yoga on one of the most beautiful lakes on earth: Lago de Atitlán, in the highlands of Guatemala. The majority of my classes take place on a wooden platform jutting out over the shoreline, with a majestic view of the lake and the three volcanoes along the southern shore. (Shout out to Hostel del Lago in San Marcos La Laguna!)
In just about every practice I’ve led this year, I’ve been including pranayama and sound healing before final relaxation. Asana (postures) are important, but there is a depth of inner peace and transformation that is reached when pranayama and chanting are incorporated in daily practice.
Sometimes, we’ll do the consonant or vowel sounds for the crown, heart, and root chakras, in different orders depending on the day. Or, I’ll lead the students through the seed mantras for all seven of the main chakra points.
I always encourage people to join in with their voice if they feel comfortable, or just to listen, because I can clearly remember feeling freaked out by Sanskrit chanting at age 21.
I also love playing with the warrior syllables from Tibetan Buddhism. My beloved friend and yoga teacher, Paola, introduced them to me some months back in a sauna ceremony. They are amazingly powerful and beneficial.
The five warrior syllables are A, Om, Hung, Ram, and Dza. Each represents a quality of realization.
Seed syllables contain the essence of enlightenment. It is subtle, not grandiose, this uncovering of the thick multitude of layers of conditioning. Yet, it empowers us to connect more and more with our true nature—pure awareness.
According to Buddhist teacher Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, the five warrior syllables represent the body, speech, mind, virtuous qualities, and actions of enlightenment. He writes:
“Our fundamental awake nature is not produced or created, but is already there. In the way the vast expanse of the sky is present but may be obscured by clouds, we too are obscured by habitual patterns that we mistake for ourselves.
The practice of the Five Warrior Syllables is a skillful means that can support us to release our negative and limiting behavioral patterns of body, speech, and mind, and make room for a more spontaneous, creative, and authentic expression. In this practice, we recognize, connect with, and trust what is already there.”
To practice, find a comfortable seat—whatever that looks like for your body in this moment. Take a few moments to deepen the breath, lengthen your spine, and check in with your body, noticing physical sensations and the energy in the heart-mind.
- Focus your attention in the space between the brow chakra, better known as the third eye, and the crown chakra, at the top of the head. Visualize pure white light and connect with the element of vast space, the space in which everything and everyone in the universe pulsates and exists. Imagine any anger you may be harboring dissolving into this space as you chant a long Aaaaah.
- Moving the attention downward to the throat, connect with the element of sound as you sing Om. Visualize the color red and hold the intention of clear, honest, and compassionate communication.
- Now draw the awareness to the heart center. Visualize a clear blue light emerging from your heart-mind. Send out loving kindness to all sentient beings, including yourself, as you chant Hung and connect with the air element.
- Again, move your awareness further down to the solar plexus, the third chakra point which is just above the naval. Visualize red again, chanting Ram. Connect with the fire element and your personal power and strength.
- Finally, bring the attention to the “secret chakra,” the space between your first and second energy centers. The first chakra is at the base of the spine while the second resides in the pelvic bowl around the sexual organs. Focusing in between these two areas and connecting with the earth and water elements, chant Dzaaaah.
We start from the crown and move down. Honestly, I mostly work with just the first still, the Ah. As a novice, this is the starting point.
Gradually, we can add in the others, moving down the body, grounding into the earth with time and devotion.
You can chant at each of the five points three times for a quick refresh. I encourage you to chant for a longer period when you have the time and inclination.