The other day, I walked into my yoga class, not sure what to expect. Maybe some core work, or upper strength, or will there be lots of leg stretches? I was hoping for a challenge, and knew I’d get a good workout while also de-stressing. However, I did not expect at all what actually happened.

One of the things I love about my yoga teacher, Kalpana, is that she really stresses that yoga is not competitive. It’s not about how far you can bend your back, or if the girl (or dude) next to you is more flexible/strong than you, all that matters is your own progress. She also reminds us all of where yoga comes from. She keeps it in touch with it’s eastern roots and traditions, and of the spiritual side. This should be happening in yoga classes anyway, but sometimes it doesn’t. Before I joined this yoga class, I had found myself in classes where, whether rightly or wrongly, I unfortunately found it competitive, pretentious, and with a real focus on the physical aspects. While I find my strength and flexibility improving on a weekly basis, Kalpana reminds us all what yoga is all about. It’s about being in touch with your spirit, it’s about connecting the mind and the body, practising mindfulness. Even if you don’t believe in the spiritual side, you can still bring the positives of this into your every day life. Yoga is about appreciating life and the beauty and people within it. In my last yoga class, we got in touch with this in a whole new way.

It was a small class, and I’m glad for it, because in this class, we practiced chanting. That’s right, chanting. One chant (or mantra) in particular: Om.

Om, Kalpana told us, is believed in many eastern philosophies, to be the first sound that everything in the universe originated from. Dig the big bang theory? Well, according to this, the universe didn’t go ‘bang’, it went ‘om’. Even if you don’t believe this, the benefits of practicing this chant can still be founded. Kalpana said how when we chant this, we are chanting a mantra that has been practiced by millions before us, and will be practiced by millions in the future. According to yoga principles, we are all interconnected. All of us. And when we practice this chant, it’s facinating. It’s like you are connecting with the past, and the future. You are connecting with the world. As someone who is an avid fan of the Gaia Hypothesis, I really dig this. 

Anyway, I was glad the class was small, because weirdly, making these noises when I’d never done that before was odd, and made me feel a bit self-conscious. You chant Om deeply, letting it roll through you for a good few seconds. It’s a deep, vibrating, long chant, and it does something to you I can’t quite explain, or at least it did to me. But maybe that’s because I felt a bit self-conscious. I find that sometimes, when we feel a bit on show, and we put ourselves out there, it gives us a new found confidence. Pair that with the spirituality and community feeling within yoga, and it made me feel totally tranquil and much more in touch with myself. 

Chanting was something different, and had I known we were chanting, I probably wouldn’t of gone. But boy I’m glad I did. Sometimes we get scared to do new things, even things like this, because they are so new and maybe seem silly, but by trying these new things and not really having any choice about it, it can do wonders, pushing us into new zones, and allowing us to discover things about ourselves and other cultures that we didn’t know before.

If you are thinking about practicing yoga, then don’t do it just for the physical side. Yoga can have awesome physical benefits, and yes, it can work up a sweat, but it’s about so much more than that. Allow your mind to open to the possibilities, even if you’re not naturally inclined to do so. Yoga, and chanting, has taught me to open up when I wanted to close off. To put myself out there when I wanted to hide away. To discover new things and discover MYSELF, when before I thought I knew all there was to know. But there is always more to learn. Even if you’re not a budding yogi, look out for the different, new things in your everyday life, and embrace them. They are the things that make life special.