Six months ago I embarked on my yoga teacher training journey at One Down Dog. I remember the first Saturday of our weekend when we had to sit on the floor for many hours and I could not imagine another day of it the next day. Truth be told, a good many hours has been spent sitting on the floor (and learning how to use yoga props to come to a comfortable seat on hardwood floor). Who knew of the challenges that were to come my way that were grander than the seating arrangements? The physical challenges were going to be the least of my worry as the mental and emotional baggage that surfaces during training really makes one dig deeper into the self and learn about idiosyncrasies that might have been buried deep down due to learnt habits, in Sanskrit, samskara.
A clear memory I have of the beginning days of training have to do with the practice of meditation and mantra chanting. During the first weekend we held a 10 minute seated meditation. That was the first time I experienced meditation, granted I’ve had a strong physical practice for years. I was jittery, dealing with lower back pain, moving my neck around and “unable” to meditate. Of course this realization during meditation, is meditation itself. We were also given the Soham mantra meditation to focus on. The mantra is a natural and universal mantra which follows ones inhalation and exhalation. Moreover, it loosely translates to “I am that”. Two weeks later upon trying to chant this as part of a daily meditation, the mantra did not resonate with me much. In fact during one of our check ins, I brought it up that I’ve stopped chanting “Soham” and I needed to find another mantra. “I did not like it”, I said.
Six months later, I have found it. During those months, I decided to get myself to just silently meditate, without much expectation. My state of physical sitting still and mental processing has gotten more relaxed through a constant practice of meditation. In fact, as soon as I started to let go of the expectations, the benefits and magic of meditation began to surface. An important aspect of yoga is to learn how to surrender and detach from expectations. It has not been an easy process. In fact, it is constant work trying to sustain a state of mind which is balanced and grounded. It would be arrogant to say I’ve achieved this in a short 6 months. The work is endless and I am perfectly fine with this reality.
In any case, a few weeks ago I bought a book titled “Healing Mantras” from my teacher’s yoga retail store, Maitri in Culver City. Upon reading it, I discovered almost immediately the mantra I needed in my life at the moment. Within a day of chanting, a few obstacles I’ve had in my life that still prevented me from making important and better decisions, were removed. The process of chanting in itself made me tap into my own mind to find the motivation and take action towards those obstacles. Lately, I have been able to hold the chanting of the said mantra to 108 times, the repetition of which carries a lot of symbology. You can read more on the power of a 108 repetition on Western Hindu.
The mantra, Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha (OM GUM GUN-NUH-PUH-TUH-YEI NAHM-AH-HA) translates to “Om and salutations to the remover of obstacles for which Gum is the seed.” In this mantra, we are calling upon the powerful energy of Ganesh, the elephant headed deity, who is widely revered as the “Remover of Obstacles”. You do not need to resort to Hinduism or Buddhism to practice chanting. It is the universal vibrations that are created through Sanskrit mantra that have the power to bring mental relaxation and clarity. The energy that is created through this action and the consequences of such chanting have metaphysical explanations.
So, the past six months have provided me with numerous lessons. Here are the top 6:
1. A 200 hour yoga teacher training will be transformational. Mantra chanting and all the fun rituals and practices you will learn will be transformational. The lessons you’ll learn and the state of body and mind consciousness will arrive to a very pleasant state.
2. The jitteriness and anxiety will start to cease. You will have more clarity and balance will be more present than not, joyous moments will happen more often than non-joyous ones and most importantly mental evolution and change, as nature intends for us, will be omnipresent.
3. Your body will surprise you with how it can move through space, but especially how it can heal ailments through a natural process.
4. You will embark on a journey with individuals who bring to the group a worldview and knowledge that make for valuable lessons to be learnt. Lessons much needed for maturity will be presented through these interactions.
5. You will learn how to effectively and sustainably shift unhealthy habits and replace them with new and productive ones.
6. You will change. Your essence will not perhaps, but you will start working towards a better version of yourself that throughout your years have been adversely affected by trauma and injury.
Six months ago I embarked on that journey. Today, I feel in touch with my inner child, who was unaffected by sorrows added through my 32 years of breathing.