Why are Sanskrit mantra & nada yoga so powerful? (Dispatch from India 2023)

Sitting in the temple for evening prayers last night, new words came to express the answer to the question I’ve been asking myself… Why mantra and nada yoga?

(After 3 years away from India and a rest from the intensity of my previous personal practice, I’m looking through different eyes and discerning anew my lifelong love affair with learning mantra and nada yoga in India.)

Here’s why Sanskrit mantra & nada yoga are so powerful:

1. It's a detailed system of language - musical tones, rhythms, vowels and consonants - which calls into being those otherwise-fleeting essences of Life we don’t have words for.

2. Mantras evoke archetypal pulses of creation, making intangible essence tangible.

3. Rāgas explore universal moods, creating tone worlds of exquisite nuance.

There's a look of love when we chant that I've tried to capture during our 200hr sound and mantra teacher trainings. Here's dear Sita immersed in mantra meditation along the Ganges...

There are many indigenous languages which serve the same purpose, but the detail-oriented, systems-loving perfectionist in me gets hot and bothered at the brilliance, totality, and complexity that has been developed, tried, tested, and proven consistently effective in India.

That’s why I am drawn to these practices over and over again, despite the other features I don’t enjoy. (Stubborn patriarchal hierarchy and misogyny, caste racism, growing far right nationalism… all the same problems my home country of America faces. The sense of romantic idealism about “exotic India” I had 25 years ago has long since been replaced by a real, complex, long term committed relationship. I can love and work towards embodying the ideals, while acknowledging the painful contradictions, just like I do with my American culture.)

A bit of my personal backstory with how mantra and nada yoga have been so powerful for ME:

  • I started coming to India in 1997 to cultivate my spiritual side, and was blown away by the power of mantra and devotional singing!
  • It woke something up in me that I didn't have words for; like a bell ringing from a place deeper inside me than I ever knew existed.
  • Once that bell was rung I could never go back to not knowing what it felt like to be that connected, that alive! (Thank goodness!) Since the sound was the key, it was the sound that I travelled in, in, in, in... sure that I could settle in and feel at home in that place of connection.
  • I practiced solidly for almost a decade after those first years in India, and have also taken multi-year breaks. Starting in 2010 I studied nāda yoga intensely for 7 years with Pandit Baldev Raj Verma (a master teacher in the Indore Gharana of Hindustani classical music in New Delhi) until the pollution forced me to move away from Delhi because my health just couldn't take it anymore.
  • That was before it was possible to learn nada yoga online! Here's me with Guruji in 2015, having a lesson. :) If you take our Nada Yoga training online you'll recognize this room! All of his videos were recorded here, where the musical magic happens.

  • I even chanted Sanskrit mantra for 13 years BEFORE I learned the alphabet in 2009! I had even taken a teacher training in Sanskrit mantra that -- oops -- didn't cover the Sanskrit pronunciation accurately! (LOL and HUGE OOPS! which I describe in the video on my Sanskrit pronunciation online course page.)
  • Recently, I took a 3 year break from my previously intense practice/study schedule. (I still chanted mantra for maintaining mental health and sang for pleasure and joy, I just wasn't putting in the hours to grow my skills.)

Now, getting the opportunity to come back and saturate in the daily prayers and devotional songs is reminding me all over again why I love mantra and nada yoga! Seeing an old love through fresh eyes is always a treat!

Sound can be so healing, especially through a system as thorough as nada yoga tradition. It's my honor and privilege to carry out the wishes of my gurus and share the skills and knowledge I've collected in our sound healing yoga certification courses, in person and online.

If you're drawn to explore the power of sound, we humbly invite you to join us and explore the magic! (With fresh eyes that seek to dismantle the patriarchal, hierarchical, nationalistic overlays often unfortunately pressed upon the pure joy of making love-communion with the sound.)

Our approach is pretty uniquely embodied, Tantrik, trauma informed, nuanced, evidence-based, and dogma-free, and we're continually striving to improve to become more aware, inclusive and JOYFUL. If that sounds like music to your ears, we hope to see you soon!


About the photo of me doing nāda yoga meditation with the tanpura:
My friend Mandi Nelson snapped this photo a few years back. I love the early morning hour on the Ganga. It's something very special to chant and commune with the sounds of the river and the forest in the same way millions of yogis have done for thousands of years! That's what we do daily in Rishikesh, when we gather for retreat. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter if you'd like to join us sometime!


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