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“Sat Nam. Sat Nam. Sat Nam. Sat Nam…”
Chanting Sat Nam with about 30 other yogis in class, my eyes are closed, arms raised overhead, and palms pressed together. At first I’m overthinking it, trying to keep up with the ”right” tempo and “right” emphasis on the mantra. My arms begin to fatigue and tingle from being raised above my heart for the past few minutes. Put my arms down? The idea flashes in my mind. Instead, something else happens as I continue to chant.
My mind moves into my body.
I become more and more entranced by the sounds—Sat Nam—until everything in me is so deeply focused on it. My awareness—of time, whether I was in unison with the others, or my nagging arm discomfort—ceases. Despite anything I am physically experiencing, chanting brings me to a place of complete focus and stillness within.
Discovering the Meaning of Mantra at Sat Nam Yoga in Chicago
This was the scene when Jeremy and I joined a Kundalini Yoga class taught by Siri Adi Singh, co-founder of Sat Nam Yoga in Chicago. There we learned that Sat means “truth” while Nam means “identify.” In other words, this mantra is a way to invoke the truth of our soul. What a beautiful name and intention for a yoga studio.
Kundalini Yoga prepares the body and mind to awaken the dormant kundalini energy (often described as a coiled snake) at the base of the spine and move it toward the crown of the head. What this means in practical terms, according to Sat Nam Yoga’s mission, is that “Kundalini Yoga’s purpose is to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness to heal yourself and serve others.”
Singh is a well-known yoga teacher and DJ in the Windy City, and he brought both his wisdom and musical flavor to class. It was by far one of my most favorite Kundalini Yoga classes I’ve ever attended. Although it wasn’t filled with frilly, feel-good talk or a lot of philosophy—things I normally enjoy—it was simple, to-the-point, powerful, and balanced.
We started seated with chanting and breath techniques, and then warmed up our bodies moving through standing poses like Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), with our arms held up like we were drawing back a bow and arrow. As we held the pose like a fierce warrior, our gazes focused on our front thumbs and minds trained on our intentions. After a couple of minutes in the pose, we symbolically released the arrow, launching our intentions into the universe.
Maybe it was all the mid-class Savasanas on my Jade Mat that got me. After a few poses, we’d rest on our backs to let the work we just did settle in. Finally, we moved through a few more poses and into the Sat Nam mantra with arms overhead in prayer, and then on my back for rest. During this final Savasana, Siri Adi Singh bathed us in a song from a large gong in the room. As we awakened from Savasana, we ended the class with one more mantra:
Both mantra and gong music are forms of vibration that literally affect us on a cellular level. Chanting is also a beautiful, powerful tool that can guide you into a meditative state. Many yogic traditions have used it for thousands of years to train the mind and ingrain intentions. (I’ve even offered it to my prenatal yoga students as a way to focus the mind during the hard moments of birth.) Kundalini Yoga in particular often uses the chanting of mantras—a positive affirmation or intention traditionally repeated in Sanskrit—throughout many times in a class.
It’s hard to describe how my body, mind, and heart felt after a class like that. Everything within felt like it was in alignment. I was calm, clear-headed, and peaceful. Everything just felt... happy. I believe this is truly our natural state of being, and with reminders from Kundalini and wonderful teachers like Singh, we can use this practice to bring ourselves back to our natural state that we so easily stray from throughout our busy, stressful lives.
I am so grateful to have experienced class at Sat Nam Yoga. This is a studio and a community created with beautiful intention and a place I will definitely return when I visit Chicago in the future.