When I first started practicing yoga a Swan River, I absolutely hated the chanting. Just listening to it made me want to crawl out of my own skin. I knew that I had a horrible singing voice and I was really embarrassed about it. I literally had not sung a note out loud in front of another human being in over 20 years.
This was because when I was about six or seven years old, I was singing to myself in the back seat of the car and it annoyed my father. He’s a little bit crazy, so he screamed at the top of his lungs for me to “Shut the hell up!” He said that I had a horrible singing voice, that i was clearly tone deaf, and that nobody wanted to hear me sing. And so I didn’t ever again…
…Until I was in the teacher training at Swan River. If you don’t know Michelle Baker, she’s a little bit obsessed with chanting and the healing properties of sound. The first time she said, “the vibrations clear your energy channels,” I thought she was so full of shit. When I found out leading a chant was a requirement to graduate from the training, I tried everything to get out of it (even throwing myself on the floor and sobbing hysterically). But she would not budge. She said I had a beautiful voice, I just needed to practice using it, just like everything else.
At that point I was a 28 year old, recently single mother of a two year old, that had just dropped $3,000 on a yoga teacher training. I couldn’t give up, so I had to sing. I bought a harmonium so I could practice at home. I’d never played an instrument before in my life so learning the most basic chants with three notes was painful. When I had to lead the chant in front of Michelle’s class as a student teacher, I was sure that I was going to die. My heart was pounding so loud in my ears that I couldn’t hear the words. When I had to film myself chanting for the final video, it was agonizing to watch. And after the second video attempt, after I passed and graduated, I didn’t chant again for months. I didn’t chant in front of my classes for years.
But then the darnedest thing happened. At some point along the way, I realized I really missed singing. I reincorporated it into my home practice and suddenly I could see and feel all it’s benefits. My words got caught in my throat less. I was able to speak up and be more concise. I was able to listen and remain calm in conflict without loosing my temper, just a little bit more often. And a playfulness and joy came back into my life. I was like a little kid again, and I remembered that I love to sing! My voice isn’t great. But that’s not the point. It just feels good to let it all out through song and sound sometimes. So I invite you to chant with me. If you’re nervous, I beg you to push yourself a little bit and just try it! It might make all the difference in your day, or your week, or your life.