Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
Every Bikram yoga class ends with two rounds of kapalabhati, "fire breathing" which helps to detoxify and energize the body, bring mental clarity, increase circulation, and firm abdominal muscles. Of course, by the time you get to this posture, you've already been working out for at least 85 minutes and could care less about the benefits of said-posture. In fact, you're pretty much only thinking about when you get to leave that 103 degree room and take a shower.
To get myself through this last posture, I create a mental game for myself. At the studio I go to in Los Angeles, there are three huge framed pictures of young Bikram, older Bikram, and Bikram's teacher, Bishnu Ghosh on the back wall. During fire breathing, I look at one picture per breath, silently thanking the Birkams and Bishnu Ghosh for guiding me in class and asking which one of them was guiding me and giving me strength during class that day. It might sound odd to some people, but I enjoy giving thanks to those who created this practice which I love so much and it makes the sequence go by so much faster.
At the studio I do Birkam yoga at in Connecticut, there are no pictures whatsoever on the walls of the classroom. So, what do I do to pass the time and give my practice a spiritual aspect? I silently chant the names of Hindu gods/goddesses and deities, thanking them and asking who guided me through my practice for the day. Here is what I chant: Krishna, Shiva, Rama, Durge.
Today, my chantings ended on Krishna both times, so today's mantra is dedicated to Lord Krishna.
The above mantra, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna..." may sound familiar as it is the primary chant of the Hare Krishnas. Known as the maha mantra, it is considered the most important mantra in the Vedas, and is also sometimes referred to as the great mantra. When chanted, the mantra is traditionally intended as a petition to God (in this case, Krishna), roughly translating to: "O Krishna, O energy of Krishna, please engage me in Your service." In the Hare Krishna religion, this mantra is supposed to be chanted everyday with the use of mala beads. However, because the maha mantra is chanted throughout India and the world for that matter, regardless of religion, it has come to be used as a universal mantra, with "Krishna" standing in symbolically for whichever god/deity you may worship.
There is much to be said about this mantra that cannot all be discussed now; however, I will end this post with a statement that George Harrison made about Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON), made that has always stuck with me:
In a book I read about George Harrison and the Hare Krishnas that I received from the ISKON Temple in Culver City, CA, I read a statement about the maha mantra and why chanting it is so great.
"Mukunda: Once you asked Srila Prabhupada about a particular verse he quoted from the Vedas, in which it’s said that when one chants the holy name of Krishna, Krishna dances on the tongue and one wishes one had thousands of ears and thousands of mouths with which to better appreciate the holy names of God.
George: Yes. I think he was talking about the realization that there is no difference between Him standing before you and His being present in His name. That’s the real beauty of chanting–you directly connect with God. I have no doubt that by saying Krishna over and over again, He can come and dance on the tongue. The main thing, though, is to keep in touch with God."
It's probably just because I'm a visual learner, but I love the idea that every time I chant the maha mantra and speak Krishna's name, he dances on my tongue.