In this morning’s class, one student brought printed out words to the Invocation to Patanjali she found on the internet because she wanted to learn the chant. She distributed copies for all the students. Unfortunately, she ended just printing out the first few lines and cut off a word. We already have printed versions of the whole chant at the studio in laminated cards, but I don’t pass them out. I simply chant when the clock hits seven am.
She asked why don’t I pass out the words? That is a question I ask myself often, but here is what the “words” look like:
They are a bit intimidating for the beginner. Especially at 7 am. In my best voice I chant the words. It is call and response. This is how I always start the class.
Yoga is an oral tradition. This is how it has been taught from a long time ago. People didn’t learn with laminated cards with phonetic spellings. They learned from simple call and response.
There is much more to it than that. The invocation is a skillfully concealed pranayama. You don’t read a pranayama. You breathe it. It is the use of sound to unify the class from the beginning. It gets us on the same “page.”
It is a metaphysical chant. The sound forms purify the nadi-s and spin the wheels of the chakras. The chant generates a field around the student to allow absorption of the teachings.
So perhaps next class I will pass out the laminated copies to compare the experience. You never know, they might just “learn” the chant that way…
On a happy note, today marks Iyengar Home Practice’s sixth anniversary. Hopefully there will be many more.
I taught a nice class this morning. Five of my regular students showed and it is “standing pose week.” We went through some standard standing postures: adhomukha svanasana, utthita trikonasana/parsvakonasana, vira II, ardha chandrasasna, and prasarita padottanasana. We went through some not so standard variations of utthita hasta padangusthasana with a chair and rope wall. I even threw in a rare salamba sarvangasana for a basic level class using the wall in lieu of chair and omitting halasana.
Standing poses demand a certain rigor that the other poses do not. Because you are on your feet most of the time you can push a bit harder. As we are transitioning to the damp rainy season in Hawai’i, the standing poses offset stiff joints that accompany wetter weather.
After the last active pose, I settled the class into savansana. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of my students peer in the door. She had thought it was Friday and came for the class taught at that time. She seemed disoriented. In my hush voice, I had her come in and at least do the savasana with the class. After all, she commuted to class from wherever she lives and made the effort to suit up. She reluctantly agreed.
I gave her a nice savasana set up I learned from my mentor Ray many years ago. A “mini” setu-bandha setup with two blankets set long to go under the spine so there is a subtle chest opening more than you’d just get lying on the floor.
I always to a 10 minute savasana no matter what. Most people don’t take that much time in their lives just to commit to doing nothing. I feel it is important with our stressed out society.
After class that student came up to me and said that she had been on the East Coast (six hour time difference than Hawai’i) and was so jet lagged, she thought it was Friday. She said she was stressed because she was preparing for a conference call. The relief on her face was markedly different from when I saw her stressfully peering into class just 10 minutes before. Everything was okay for her now and she could enjoy her day she was “given” by realizing it was Thursday.
Sometimes savasana is all you need….