242: Mantra & Chanting with Melissa Shah
As a white yoga practitioner who may have trouble with Sanskrit pronunciations, you may have wondered how to approach using mantra in your practice. You may have wondered – What if I can’t pronounce the words correctly? Does pronunciation matter? When is it acceptable to use mantra or Sanskrit chants in my classes? Melissa Shah has answers to these questions and more.
Melissa works to make yoga accessible through yoga therapy, mentoring yoga teachers, and mantra, which she has practiced since childhood. She is passionate about bringing yoga and Ayurveda back to its roots, and reclaiming representation within the wellness community. Currently, Melissa works individually with clients offering yoga therapy in the Viniyoga tradition and offers weekly community chanting and pranayama classes.
Melissa sheds light on what exactly mantra is, and talks about the benefits and importance of mantra in yoga. She also shares her perspective on getting the pronunciations right when saying mantras, and how we can navigate incorporating mantra into our practice and classes in a way that is mindful, respectful and intentional.
[4:55] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Melissa Shah.
[6:52] Check out the hot tip of the week from Schedulicity.
[9:37] Where did Melissa’s yoga journey begin? When did she start practicing mantra and chanting?
[13:01] Did Melissa ever have a period of time where she rejected yoga, having started at such a young age?
[16:38] What is the definition of mantra?
“What kind of intended effect do you want the mantra to have?”
[19:02] Are mantras always in Sanskrit or can they be in English?
“Depending on where the individual you’re working with is at and what they’ll connect to the most, you can give them other kinds of sounds.”
[21:03] What’s the difference between kirtan and mantra?
[25:46] How should yoga teachers approach the pronunciation of Sanskrit words in mantra?
“When you’re in a position of power, especially as a white person in a wellness space, when you’re in a position of power like that, what you do, other people model.”
[30:38] What is the science behind mantra?
[35:36] Where the tongue lands in the mouth has an impact on the body. Melissa explains more about this in relation to mantra.
“It means something when you don’t put in the effort. It’s a micro aggression and it does mean something and it does cause harm.”
[41:28] How does Melissa approach people who may feel uncomfortable with chanting and mantras, or like it collides with their beliefs or religion?
“I wouldn’t say that not being able to pronounce something the perfect way is an excuse for not using it at all.”
[45:10] Learn more about mantra and chanting from Melissa at her classes, and also check out some resources she has available on her website.
[47:13] Melissa closes the interview with a chant.
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