Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.… I sit on my yoga mat, ankles crossed in a Half Lotus pose, eyes closed and struggling to form the shape of these foreign sounds in my mouth. Horns blare and headlights shine dimly through the gossamer-curtained window—the thinnest of veils separates us from ever-bustling New York City. My teacher is inviting us to join her in this ancient Sanskrit chant that translates to “may all beings everywhere be happy and free.”
For several weeks understanding the phonetics of this phrase had been about as challenging as executing a headstand. Tonight I finally I get the hang of it, and the sounds float as freely from my throat—from my heart—as does the unifying sound of Om that started and ended our practice (and even harmonized, strangely, with all the honking). My teachers had always referred to these chanting rituals as “sacred.” That description never made sense until the phrases resonated in me like other melodies—the songs I sang in Mass every week; songs that somehow seemed to be the same in churches I attended growing up in East Brunswick, N.J., then during college in Cambridge, Mass., and now in the mecca of ambition and drive, New York City. Had yoga, and the Eastern religions behind it, somehow become sacred to me, a practicing Catholic?
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