If you’re like most yogis, you really enjoy how yoga makes you feel. Your skin glows. Your body looks great. And you don’t sweat the small stuff as much as you used to.
As you get more hooked on yoga, you discover your life force. You realize how deeply your breath influences your emotions…how the right food affects your energy…how being around positive people puts you in a better state of mind.
This is where most yogis stop growing on the path of yoga.
It’s not that you want to. You just don’t know where else your yoga practice is supposed to lead you. You’re like the beggar who doesn’t know he’s sitting on a field of diamonds.
Once there was a beggar who lived in a run-down hut sitting on a field. The villagers complained to the king because they didn’t like the beggar taking up space that they could be farming. So the king made an offer to the beggar. He promised to give him a large sum of money if he vacated his hut.
The beggar refused. What would he do with that money? Buy another place to live? Why would he do that when he was perfectly content with his life in his hut? He had everything he needed and he didn’t need more.
So the beggar spent his entire life in the hut. And when he passed away, the villagers tore it down to cultivate the earth it sat on. As they dug into it, they discovered that the beggar had been sitting on a field of diamonds. He could have benefited all of them with his abundance. But he never even bothered to find out if there was anything beyond his hut.
There is something more to yoga beyond your mat.
Like you, when I took my first yoga class over 30 years ago the bug bit me. Suddenly, I became hungry. I wanted to know everything. So I started reading all the yoga books I could find.
I found out that following a vegetarian diet would make my yoga better. So I started eating more veggies. I discovered pranayama and how my breath is tied to my emotions. So I started breathing more deeply to feel happy. And then I learned about meditation and the untapped potential of our mind. So I tried to meditate.
And I then hit a brick wall.
I wondered: How could just sitting with your eyes closed doing nothing be so incredibly difficult?
My struggle ended when I heard Sanskrit being chanted for the first time.
I was a young student living with a Brahmin (priest) family in Nepal. Every morning at 4:00 a.m. a loud cacophony of strange and rhythmic sounds awakened me. These beautiful, hypnotic and nonsensical melodies put my mind at rest. My breathing became deep and full. I relaxed totally into the pleasant pulse of warm electricity coursing through my body. Letting go, I forgot the time. Not quite asleep and not quite awake, I entered a natural state of meditation.
Just listening to the Sanskrit syllables dissolved my busy mind into a vast, open space within. It felt pure there. I experienced a wakeful awareness that contained no thought. The best way I found to express it was through a blissful smile spread across my face.
At this point you may wonder how Sanskrit fits in here.
There certainly isn’t an obvious connection between Sanskrit and meditation. Like most yogis, I believed that Sanskrit is a dead, classical language. Like you, I always would skip over those words in yoga books. To me, they were weird foreign terms that I should know but I didn’t really see the point.
But that’s only because I wasn’t familiar with the power of the primordial Sanskrit sounds and how they can lead us to discover the “diamond field” behind yoga’s outer practices.
Yet as I started chanting just the 50 syllables of Sanskrit myself, I became aware of how its vibrations connect all the limbs of yoga together.
First, I noticed the Sanskrit sounds both energized and relaxed my body. My yoga asana practice became more flexible and effortless. I found I could sit comfortably in lotus posture for a long period of time.
Next, I found that making each Sanskrit sound was a mini-pranayama. Pronouncing the syllables correctly required different flows of breath and its retention.
Finally, after chanting the 50 syllables the thoughts in my mind would stop. My heart beat slowed way down. And I’d find myself meditating with absolutely no struggle at all.
Before I knew it, I was experiencing the goal of yoga, described in all the books as the state of samadhi.
It’s so easy, effortless and natural to experience through Sanskrit. The best way I can describe samadhi is “blissful repose.” It pulls you way deep inside yourself and awakens a presence that for some reason makes life easier to live. You find yourself happy for no reason at all. And your happiness is contagious. Everyone around you feels it.
Join Sanskrit scholar, Dr. Katy Jane, as she explains why your practice isn't complete without the "descent of śakti."
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