Sunday, March 19, 2006


Last class this afternoon, followed by dinner at an Indian restaurant afterwards.

Alanna brought a harmonium -- essentially a hand-pumped drone instrument, akin in sound to a cross between an organ and an accordion. Another class member brought drums. Another brought a tambourine. And to start the class, we chanted, kirtan-style ( For a reasonable approximation of the scene, imagine 30 or so folk seated in a circle, one playing a harmonium and chanting a phrase in Sanskrit, the rest of the people in the circle repeating the phrase-chant; the leader chants the same phrase to an extension of the melody, the rest repeating it. Rhythms vary from very slow, accelerating through a dozen repetitions, then slowing again over about the same course. Once it gets started, add in, jazz-style, improvisational rhythms in drums, tambourines, clapping. It can be quite hypnotic in style and, at least for me, the practice unlocks interesting energies, ranging from shivers and gooseflesh to elation and "highs."

Weird? Not at all, though I imagine that watching it can be as uninspiring (and perhaps as weird) as watching a group of Hare Krishnas on a street corner. I read somewhere that watching someone else practice yoga doesn't begin to give you even the barest glimpse of what yoga is about. I suspect the same is true of kirtan. Once that ended, we divided into pairs and taught our way through an entire C1 sequence. I teamed with Leigha, who was suffering from a bout of the flu. She called me through the sequence consistently and admirably, especially accounting for her illness. I then began to lead her through when she just ran out of energy. Amanda came over and allowed me to finish the series of poses with her as the student.

There is a kind of richness to the opportunity to practice yoga and yoga instruction with such people. My life outside of such practice is pretty nice and pretty normal. But it is entirely devoid of opportunities for such interaction with others. Though, as I've said to many others and to myself, "I already have a day job," I wonder whether I want to manage my life with people like these who give of themselves so generously. What an impoverished way of living, to do without interactions such as I have been blessed to have during the past eight weeks.

At dinner, we ate and chatted and remembered. Dave gave me an opportunity to lead a chant, something I've wanted to do since Manorama first introduced us to Sanskrit. But I chose a Hopi chant -- in remembrance of my sister, who found a part of her personality in Hopi traditions. So I led the group through a mantra of "shima," which, in Hopi, means "love."