Auspiciously enough, the monthly bhakti yoga and kirtan evening held at Yoga Unlimited fell on Guru Purnima in July. Simply put, Guru Purnima is a time to honour your teachers, both those that surround you as well as the teacher inside you. It is a fantastic day for introspective, meditative practice and so the practice of chanting was powerful indeed!
On this particular evening, two very different renditions of the Gayatri Mantra were practiced. The Gayatri is a personal favourite of mine and it is well-known in yoga circles. I’ve heard it sung in very different ways – from quick and staccato to slow and lilting. The words are as follows:
Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhi Yo Yonah Prachodayat Om
Over the years, I’ve heard many translations and meanings of this chant. Quite often, appreciation of the sun features prominently and this being the case, I always had some idea that the Gayatri was a heating mantra.
On this particular evening however, I was to have my perception and appreciation of the Gayatri altered forever. At the beginning of the session, my dear friend Satyananda yoga teacher Tyag, explained that we would be chanting the Gayatri for inner wisdom and peace. He went on to say that the Gayatri is a cooling mantra for the mind, activating Ida nadi – the feminine aspect of ourselves. As such, the Gayatri is a powerful tool for awakening our intuition.
A-ha! I had never heard it explained this way before but it made perfect sense. Being a huge fan of intuition and always seeking to sharpen that particular skill set, I felt as though a piece of the puzzle had finally fallen into place for me. As I mentioned, the Gayatri has always been a personal favourite of mine but I could never remember the meaning of it very well because the ones I had understood didn’t resonate fully.
That evening two renditions were chanted. Near the beginning of the session, Tyag led us through 54 repetitions of a quick, staccato rendition. Normally I would find that style of mantra agitating and confusing but on this particular occasion, with my awareness firmly fixed on Ajna chakra (seat of our intuitive powers), I felt a calm descend upon me. In the silence that followed the chanting, I felt steady and peaceful, yet bright and alert.
Then, at the end of the session after two kirtans had been sung, Billy McGrath led us through the Gayatri to the tune of an original lilting melody, complete with guitar, drum and violin accompaniment. It was like slipping into a warm bath and my attention merged with Ajna chakra effortlessly. When the rounds were over, meditation was as natural as breathing.
The next time your brain is busy and you’re having trouble hearing your own wisdom voice, stop for a few minutes and chant the Gayatri with your awareness fixed at Ajna. Experiment with tempo and rhythm and find a pace that works for you. If you’ve never heard the Gayatri Mantra, it can help to hear someone else sing it first. There are many recorded variations available online. Find one that you love and learn it by heart. It’ll be an immensely valuable tool for whenever you need clarity of mind and connection with your intuition.
~article by Kelly Fisher