On the heels of the first Montreal Yoga Festival comes the city’s first Yoga Music Festival, July 14-15. Concordia University’s Loyola Campus will play host to kirtan (call and response singing), satsang (communal gathering), mantra (repetition of sacred words), chanting, meditation and yoga classes. (Scroll down to see how you can win festival passes.)
It’s clearly been an interesting year for yoga in Montreal. According to a recent Gazette article, there are now more than 100 yoga studios in the area! I suppose this shouldn’t be that surprising considering the Sivananda Centre on St Laurent blvd is the oldest yoga centre in North America. Nevertheless, the Montreal Kirtan community is still relatively young. But this hasn’t stopped former pop singer-song writer, Mtl native and mantra chantress Lea Longo for creating an official kirtan association and organizing the upcoming Yoga Music Festival.
Here is my recent interview with Lea about bhakti yoga, chanting and bliss:
Yasmin Yoga: For people unfamiliar with kirtan, how would you describe it?
Lea Longo: Kirtan is a way to dive into your inner self by using your voice. It’s a yoga of sound where we chant together as one, Its not about the musical aspect, but the heart aspect that leads us into meditation. I explain to them, it’s the “easy” meditation practice. Just close your eyes, chant, and let go.
YY: What is Bhakti Yoga mean to you?
LL: Bhakti Yoga is a yoga of devotion. We surrender ourselves, body spirit mind to a “God” within. It is through bhakti (surrender to -devoting to) that we have realization of God. In bhakti yoga, we chant to different Gods and Goddesses to help up towards this realization.
YY: What does chanting and mantra bring you? Can you describe the experience?
LL: Chanting mantras is my spiritual practice. I feel totally happy and in the “moment” when I chant mantras. It brings me to a another state of mind, a place of inner peace. It is really difficult to describe the feeling as one needs to experience it, to really comprehend. It is a moment of bliss. It is a meditative state.
YY: Do you prefer to chant in Sanskrit or English? Why?
LL: I prefer to chant in Gurmuki actually, which is the script and language for Kundalini mantras. They possess the energy that I have witnessed brings me into a deeper state of meditation and blissfulness. I have that similar connection with the Sanskrit mantras that I chant. I find that chanting specific mantras in Sanskrit allows my mind to be still and surrender, and therefore, joy is present. I had never found that specific inner peace when singing English lyrics although, I will still chant in English, the experience is different.
YY: How do you incorporate chanting or mantra in regular practice? Do you incorporate it in asana or is it a separate practice?
LL: It’s a separate practice. totally different . Its a meditation.
YY: What is your favourite chant? Why?
LL: Chanting to Shiva – Om Nama Shivaya
YY: Do you have any suggestions for people wanting to incorporate mantra or chanting into their practice?
LL: Listen to different chants, choose one mantra that resonates with you and then keep chanting it. See what happens. explore. Discover yourself, your voice.
YY: What inspired you to organize a whole festival dedicated to Yoga Music?
LL: I had been traveling in diverse cities performing kirtan and realized that Montreal was not as developed in the kirtan practice as other cities abroad. So I started the Montreal Kirtan Community to develop the kirtan practice, then the idea if having a Festival dedicated to kirtan just felt like the next step to take, to build this community even further. That was my goal, to build Kirtan community. I am excited to see what happens in the next few years.
CONTEST GIVEAWAY: WIN TICKETS TO THE MONTREAL YOGA MUSIC FESTIVAL
If you are interested in winning two day passes to the Yoga Music Festival July 14-15, tell us What makes you feel blissful or devotional & how you cultivate bliss and devotion in your life and others. Comment below or post your response on the Yasmin Yoga Facebook page. You have until July 11.