I first discovered Kundalini Yoga when I was 23 years old. I was sitting on the hardwood floor of a studio in Miami as I chanted sounds that I barely meaning knew the meaning of. I held prayer beads in my hands and closed my eyes and tried the different mantras, movements, and breathing techniques that were very strange to me at that time. Now, twelve years later, these chants are still mysterious to me, but they are also familiar, and I turn to them when I need to overcome fear: It was in taking that risk to try something new that I discovered the healing power of Sanskrit and Gurmukhi.
Kundalini Yoga was brought to the United States in 1968 by Yogi Bhajan, a kundalini master from India who emigrated to the U.S. with the purpose of sharing his teachings. These sacred chants were occult in India, and there was great opposition to share this secret knowledge with foreigners. According to 3HO, an organization of kundalini yogis, there was a “centuries-old taboo” against teaching Kundalini Yoga publicly, so what Yogi Bhajan did was progressive.
In the west, Yogi Bhajan shared this healing practice with many students, so they could become teachers and spread Kundalini Yoga, and Gurutej Kaur was one of his early pupils, among the first to teach the ancient discipline. Gurutej has been teaching Kundalini Yoga for over 50 years. I still have the DVD I bought twelve years ago: Awakening the Intuition for Women. I found such profound healing from those chants that I always turn to them when I am going through overwhelming challenges.
May is Mental Health Month, and considering the chaos the world is facing with coronavirus, it’s more important now than ever to stay centered. The best kundalini chant for healing is the Ra Ma Da Sa chant. According to yogi and singer Snatam Kaur, “this mantra taps into the energies of the sun, moon, earth, and the Infinite Spirit to bring deep healing. It can be chanted to heal the self or to send healing energy to anyone you wish.”
The chant is done in easy pose with a mudra. Watch how to do the mudra here, and you can also listen and sing along to the chant with Snatam Kaur’s angelic voice. This chant is available in her album, Grace.
They say poetry is healing, and this couldn’t be truer for poems that are also chants. The Ray Man Shabad chant is a poem written by Guru Gobind Singh, “the tenth master of the Sikhs.” These poems are available in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, a collection of devotional hymns, poems, and sacred writings.
Ray Man Shabad
Ray man eh bidh jog kamaa-o
Singee saach akapat kanthalaa
Dhi-aan bibhoot charaa-o
Taatee gaho aatam bas kar kee
Bhichhaa naam adhaarang
Baajay param taar tat har ko
Upajai raag rasaarang
Ughatai taan tarang rang
At gi-aan geet bandhaanang
Chak chak rahay dayv daanav mun
Chhak chhak bayom bivaanang
Aatam upadays bhays sanjam ko
Jaap so ajapaa jaapai
Sadaa rahai kanchan see kaayaa
Kaal na kabahoo bayaapai
Oh my mind, practice Yoga in this way:
Let Truth be your horn, sincerity your necklace,
and meditation the ashes you apply on your body.
Catch your burning soul (self) and stop the flames.
Let the soul (self) be the alms bowl in which you
collect the sweet Naam and this will be the only
support you will ever need.
The Universe plays its divine sacred music. The sound of
reality is shrill, but this is where God is.
When you listen to the reality from this place of
awareness, the sweet essence of Raag arises.
Waves of melodies, emotions, and passions arise
and flow through you. Bind yourself with the
song of God.
The Universe spins like a potter’s wheel
and from it fly demons and angels. The sage listens
to this and instead of getting caught in either one,
the sage drinks in the nectar of the heavens and is
carried to the heavens in a divine chariot.
Instruct and clothe yourself with self-control.
Meditate unto infinity until you are meditating
In this way, your body shall remain forever golden,
and death shall never approach you.
Ong Namo is a well-known mantra you might have heard in your yoga class. According to Snatam Kaur in her Grace album, “chant this mantra to tune into the divine teacher within.”
The reasons these chants and mantras heal is because our bodies have chakras, and the sounds we emit with our voices resonate with our chakras when we chant in Sanskrit: “The ancient Sanskrit language is both mathematical and vibrational, meaning each letter, syllable and word has a specific meaning and effect when it is sounded out loud…the correct pronunciation of each word is said to create a vibration throughout the universe that makes contact with the subconscious mind and the world around us.”
We can read and talk about Kundalini Yoga, but ultimately it’s an experience. Yoga Journal describes it as other-worldly: “Kundalini Yoga is an ancient practice that helps you channel powerful energy and transform your life.” There is even scientific evidence to back-up the life-changing experience of this kind of yoga: It provides a defense against stress and helps practitioners overcome addictive patterns. With so many benefits, it’s worth trying some of these chants once a week in order to see the healing benefits of Kundalini Yoga.
Remember: poetry is sound, and because sound is vibration, it can heal us.