On International Yoga Day, I took my yoga mat to work in preparation for the “Nada Yoga” I’d signed up for in the afternoon. The “Vibrational Yogic Science” session was being led by practitioner Shruti Nada Poddar, who told me on the phone earlier that her spiritual name is Soundarya Ambika.
The entire world, lead by our prime minister, seemed to be basking in the afterglow of the pranayama and various asanas. My Instagram was flooded with photos of people practising poses from kapotasana to bhujangasana. I started practising yoga last year after getting bored of my gym routine, but am yet to crack crow pose— bakasana—or a lizard variation—utthan pristhasana. Hell, even the words make my tongue do somersaults. I’ve taught myself some basic stretching techniques from YouTube (hello, Adriene), but looked forward to something a little different.
Poddar is 66 but looks like she’s in her 40s. She got into Vedic chanting in her 30s and told me Nada Yoga is “Yoga that unifies the self through practises of Nada. Nada means vibrations. It is the vibrational realm of existence.” Having never tried any alternative healing techniques, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but was willing to find out.
Poddar said she developed the practice after a surgery in 1992 to remove a fallopian tube. “A day after the surgery, I experienced shooting pain and found myself chanting Om and sending it to the place of pain. Like a beam of light,” Poddar said. “The pain disappeared.”
“There is a whole science of bija mantras,” she said—“These are sounds which affect different parts of the body.” Poddar claims to have cured epilepsy patients using vibrational yoga techniques. She also did research at VIMHANS, a mental and neuroscience institute. “We found that chanting helped people sometimes go into a trance, which is theta brain waves,” Poddar claimed.
I reached Indian National Trust for Art and Culture (INTACH) in Delhi’s elite intellectual hub of Lodhi Estate, where Poddar’s lecture-demonstration would take place. There wasn’t a yoga mat or pair of yoga pants in sight. Instead, there were chairs. Rows and rows of chairs. How am I going to do downward dog here, I wondered.
Poddar entered in a white salwaar kameez. People, mostly my parents’ age, trickled in. The hall filled with sitar music, very reminiscent of the Doordarshan theme. There was a projector in front, with a man’s chakras highlighted.
Poddar took to the dias. “Namaskar”, she began. “I am glad to be talking about this aspect of Yoga which is not really touched upon." She claimed she had not touched medicine for 30 years due to Nada Yoga.
After awhile, she began singing. “I am going to demonstrate some ragas to you,” she said. “Maybe you’ll feel different urjas [energies].” She sang a morning raga. Then an evening raga. She asked how we felt. Some kind soul responded, “There was a calmness to it.”
“What do you feel about Om?” she asked. It felt like a classroom and I was starting to zone out. I caught her saying “If you were to chant Om for half an hour everyday, you’ll find your intuition opening up. There can be telepathy.”
We all chanted Om together. Everyone sat up straight. I closed my eyes, hoping to witness the power of Om. Maybe the room was vibrating a little as everyone started chanting. It went on for a few minutes, then it was all over. “You would have felt more centred,” Poddar told us.
I guess I felt sort of Zen. Calm. And ready to book my Uber out of here to the nearest cafe. But the app kept crashing, almost as if the universe was conspiring to keep me from keeping my deadline. I tried again. It crashed. My Zen levels were crashing too. I tried to chant Om. It didn’t help.
I stood on the road, chanting, trying not to be audible as pedestrians passed by. I tried to hail an auto, but not one would stop. Great. I had just come out of the Vibrational Yoga and the little irritations of the world seemed even more grating than before. Maybe it’s fine for people who have cars and drivers waiting to whisk them back to their lives, but I think I’ll stick to Adriene.
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