The Joy of Purity in Yoga and Sound
In early January, I kicked off the new year by attending a workshop of Yoga and Sound with Ramanand Patel and Mukesh Desai at Como Shambhala in Singapore. In 2005, I had attended a workshop by these two masters, so I had some idea of what I was in for, but the resulting contentment I experienced was unexpected.
On the first morning of the workshop, Ramanand explains how he was practicing early one morning at a friend’s home and was astounded that the sound and vibration of the music he heard coming from the next room expanded his practice. It is no surprise that it was Mukesh who created this beautiful sound. This is the story of how they came to work together. Ramanand warms us up by teaching asanas in the morning. In the afternoon, we sit cross legged in front of Mukesh listening to him sing free form using his harmonium as a starting note. Then, in an effort to mimic him, we practice vocalizing sounds and singing basic mantras. During the process, we are free to interact with Mukesh -- we ask questions about the breath, how to create freedom, how tightness affects the sound, and how vibrations influence our asanas practice. Later, under the guidance of Ramanand, we re-start our asanas practice and then begin chanting with Mukesh as conductor while maintaining a yoga pose. This becomes the template for our daily practice.
It is hard to describe how these two masters fuse yoga and sound. They somehow manage to create a magical experience for students who are open to an amusing, intellectual, and philosophical approach toward creating more freedom and integration in the mind, body and spirit journey. To give the reader some perspective, it’s useful to describe these two highly unusual, seemingly ego-less, distinctly spiritual teachers.
Ramanand is a Senior Iyengar teacher and a student of Vedanta philosophy. As a student, his knowledge is breathtaking. Imagine the dry and liberal sense of humor of one who exhibits all the physical traits of a traditional Iyengar yoga teacher combined with the verbal logic of an engineer (he practiced engineering while raising his family and before he became a full time yogi). Over the last 10 years, his teachings become ever more precise, and ever more humorous infused with jabs at celebrities or politicians all the while sitting in virasana, and amazing us with the suppleness of his limbs.
Mukesh is a master vocalist, and a gifted teacher of North Indian classical music. Unlike Ramanand, Mukesh is a slightly pot bellied, Indian vocalist who uses a simple harmonium to create singular sounds as a basis for chanting. Mukesh’s range and depth of voice are remarkable, and his agility is filled with a resonance and strength that belies its lightness. And, although he does not profess to be a yogi, when it came time to flex his toes to “walk” forward or backwards, he performed miracles which simultaneously astounded us and rendered us into fits of uncontrollable laughter as we struggled to imitate him.
Chanting, while simultaneously twisting oneself into an asana or two gives you an idea of the seeming challenges we might have experienced during the workshop. Yet, appearances can be deceiving. I was surprised to find that chanting was easier and freer when I was in an asana, than when I was sitting! For most of the workshop, I felt as light as a feather, as stable as an ox, and my voice became wholly foreign to the one I was familiar with. The increased sensitivity created by the combination of sound, asanas and vibration resonated at the core of my being resulting in a profound sense of freedom and joy.
The confluence of yoga and sound seemed to encourage the receptivity of my breath and also increased the level of awareness I had of my physical being. As a second timer to this workshop, I found that the vibrations opened up the chakras creating an openness I had experienced only rarely. These moments gave me a glimpse of what the true meaning of freedom is all about.
Throughout the workshop, Mukesh and Ramanand cracked jokes in an effort to get this highly stressed and intense group to share their profound sense of humor and joy of life. They radiated a quiet sense of peace, happiness and love in their beings. Early on, Ramanand was convinced that we didn’t have a sense of humor but, by the end, any sense of shyness or embarrassment shed us like an old skin, and we cracked jokes at every possible moment, and forgot about whether we could sing, or hold a pose “properly” -- that simply was not the point.
To say that this I was able to experience the real meaning of joy in my practice does not do justice to how my heart was touched and how my inner being was affected. And, as if to remind me that I was still grounded in this dimension, my body and muscles were tired after each day. I knew I was working hard to attain this “wow, what a feeling!” but, it was worth it.
For more information about Ramanand and Mukesh go to www.yogirama.com
Ming Lee is a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Founder of YogaWithMing Retreats and a Financial Services Entrepreneur. While taking a hiatus from the financial services industry, Ming began teaching yoga full-time in 2000. Since then, she has taught, lectured, and organized yoga-related events and workshops extensively in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. In 2002, Ming stepped back into the financial services industry challenging herself to integrate the yogic way of life in her professional and personal dealings, while still maintaining an active retreat schedule. Ming finds the joy of sharing her knowledge and experience with others an invaluable gift and one that she treasures. Please visit www.yogawithming.com for more information.