When I was a young girl I used to close myself off in my room for hours, throw in a tape and sing and dance my heart out to whoever my favorite singer was at the time. Celine Dion was my go-to gal for range, smoothness, ease, grace and passion. Janet Jackson helped me work out my moves, with a little Grease or Dirty Dancing for sass and flare.
When I turned 16 and started driving, I would take really long road trips by myself. I would, again, throw in a tape and sing my heart out. I often drove for 6 hours at a time and if I was lucky, I would show up at home, my voice completely hoarse. My car was the stage and the road my concert hall. No one could stop me, I was loud, imperfect, passionate, joyful and completely in the moment. Those trips whizzed by. I hardly remember having to pee. Ever. Perhaps that was my first introduction to yoga. Not necessarily focused on breath, or a certain mantra, but totally absorbed in the present moment. Luckily, I was present enough to drive safely every time, but when I think back on those drives, all I remember is singing. Singing and a giant love-smacked grin across my face. I was in joy. I was in peace and I was in love. I was in love with the freedom, the release, the expression and the euphoria of so much soul-pumping vibration resonating in and around me. And, I was totally, completely and authentically me.
I did join a choir a little later, but whenever I got up the nerve to audition for something special, I wasn’t chosen. After quite a number of these moments and no real support for the arts as a long term career path elsewhere in my life, I packed up my voice and my creativity, hit the books and set my sights on pushing papers, shuffling numbers, high rises, pressed suits and lots of other things that young ambitious kids think of as “success.” And, lo and behold, I had an immense amount of support around these goals.
Years later, I met my beloved. I was content in my high-rise, but my soon-to-be husband, Rob, was an artist. An artist with questions and moves and exuberance that I had never come across before, yet felt vaguely familiar. It was as though he offered me a window into the part of me that I had packed up. He heard me sing (by accident) one day and that was it. Through a lot of painstaking encouragement and support, he helped me unpack my voice, my creativity and my confidence in the real, authentic unadulterated me. She had been hidden underneath all the pressed layers and window views, wrinkled and damaged from years of neglect.
When we met, we were both dabbling in yoga. Together, it became one of our favorite things to do and talk about together. About the same time we found my voice, I enthusiastically entered yoga teacher training here at 8 Limbs while Rob pursued a way to meld two of his loves: music and yoga.
Soon after, a yoga teacher heard a song Rob wrote and asked us to sing kirtan at her studio. We said “yes!” a decision that essentially lit the path for us to Bhakti yoga. We were already on this path, you see, we just didn’t know it yet. We had found devotion to each other and to the joy and love we shared in relationship, but also in music, in health, and in community. The longer we immersed ourselves in our growing yoga community, the more we realized how devoted we were to the movement of sharing love and for us particularly, through music and mantra.
However, as this life shift of yoga and singing began to unfold, I came across one major sticking point––my fear of singing in front of people. Through my yoga teacher training and my complete love of singing mantra, I learned that this is exactly what I was being called to do. As confusing as it seemed to be, I trusted that this was in fact, my true path. Nothing else made sense to me and other fillers of things to do started falling away. I persevered and did all that I could to overcome my fear. And, eventually, through consistent practice over time with earnestness (as Yoga Sutra 1.14 asserts), I got there––one day, one chant, one class and one performance at a time. Sure, I still get the nerves, but the good energetic, I’m alive and I get to do this kind.
Below you’ll find a few insights that helped me to embrace my inner Bhakti and trust that my voice is worth being heard. I hope they may inspire you to find or follow your own Bhakti voice!
- Yoga studios are one of the safest spaces one can try out their voice. It is a space of non-judgment, support and an honoring of each individuals expression.
- A lot of yoga studios have great acoustics so we all sound A-mazing! Not necessarily important, but helpful.
- Kirtan, and a yoga class for that matter, is a community effort. We are all part of the choir. It’s not a performance, it’s a practice.
- Bhakti Yoga is the yoga practice of devotion; we’re singing for something greater than ourselves. When you take the “I” “me” and “mine” out of the equation and dedicate love, devotion and voice to something greater, fear and anxiety drop away.
- It feels good. As we sing we’re giving ourselves a sound bath through vibration. You have all seen those microscopic images of water and what the cells look like when showered with love? Well, we’re made up of an average of 60% water. Imagine how beautiful and happy our cells are when we sing kirtan! No wonder we get so naturally high and literally feel the vibration in our body––I certainly can.
- Finally, singing is fun and being in community is what we truly all want and need. It is completely uplifting to be with other like-minded people and in this case, in a peaceful, joyful and loving way. It is a chance to express our individuality in a group, the more we express, the more layers of separation fall away allowing us to move and sing as one. And that is powerful. You can feel it when an entire stadium chants for their favorite team. In this case, the entire room is chanting for team L-O-V-E. No one has to join anything, sign a contract or promise something unknowingly. We’re simply coming together to sing. And in this singing, we find freedom, love, joy and a raised community vibration.
Posted, with love, by: Melissa Lundsgaard
Rob and Melissa are bhakti yoga teachers and kirtan singers devoted to celebrating the divine through the ancient practice of kirtan (call and response chanting). In addition to sharing their music at yoga studios and festivals, they teach workshops, lead retreats and provide live music for yoga classes. You can learn more at: www.robandmelissa.com.
CD Release Announcement: Rob and Melissa will be celebrating the release of their second CD, Tejase, at their upcoming Donation-based Kirtan May 7th, 8pm at 8 Limbs Yoga Centers – Phinney Ridge. Their first CD, Bolo, can be found in the 8 Limbs boutiques. Soon to be released, Tejase, will be there May 1st!