We all have heartache, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We carry it with us for years and often even forget that it’s there, beneath every interaction, influencing our thoughts, darkening our worldview, and silently poisoning our current relationships.
This past January I was all too aware of my own heartache. Years of pain had boiled to the surface and I had been working alone for a couple of months to try to heal. I was journaling, doing yoga, singing in a choir, pouring myself into my job hoping that by helping others I would heal too, even scheduling to attend a class in California to give myself a brief change of scenery and a new focus. Nothing was working, or nothing was working enough. I heard that the Yoga of the Voice Series with Ashana was going to be offered. I had some minimal experience already with Sanskrit mantras and with Kirtan and I knew that I liked it. I knew that Sanskrit is the oldest language, that it’s considered a “living language” that resonates in a special way in the different caverns of our bodies, parts of my body that I’m very familiar with since I’m both a singer and a bodyworker. I knew that chanting mantras opens and balances our chakras. I’d experienced it firsthand before. And I knew that doing this in a group was always significantly more powerful, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling than chanting or singing alone. What I didn’t know, what I was not prepared for, was the immense level of healing I received from my attendance at this workshop.
I kept a journal with me and each week I wrote just a few notes, nothing too time consuming, tracking my thoughts and feelings and any changes I had experienced. Here are some of the things that shifted for me in that 6 week period. I felt lighter; the heaviness I was carrying was falling away in such a tangible fashion that it felt similar to when you lose weight. I started to laugh more. And I still laugh more. And laughter is healing so I continue to heal even more. And then laugh more. This is a great pattern! I began to experience joy again.
Happiness is one thing; it comes and goes as a result of good things going on around us or happening to us. But joy, joy comes from within and it infuses itself into our work and our interactions with others. I felt more compassionate. When I had disagreements with family members or friends or my significant other, it became easier to see their point of view and to look at a situation more objectively, less selfishly, and to suddenly cut through the BS of our prideful egos and become vulnerable enough to identify and verbalize what was really going on, to accurately and also calmly articulate my own pain, and to find a win-win way to fix whatever the issue was. I don’t know how many of you are truly cognizant of how life-changing that can be. I’m more patient, both at work and at home.
My heart literally feels bigger and over the course of that 6 week workshop I could feel it grow and expand a little more each week to fill the space in my chest. I took this class to aid me in my journey to healing, but as it turned out for me, I only had to show up, allow my voice to come forth, and years of built up pain melted away. It was so much more than an aid; it was a remedy, an antidote to the toxic venom I’d been allowing to remain in the channels of my mind, bleeding into my thoughts and feelings, and distorting them. It felt like, when you have a mild cold for a week or so, and you just get used to how you feel, and then you wake up one morning and you can breathe easier suddenly and you have more energy and you feel generally more cheerful and you think, “I feel a lot better! I forgot what this felt like.” I felt and continue to feel very similar to that.
I admit that, although I am an amateur singer, it’s still scary to sing music you don’t know in front of people you may not know and in such an intimate setting. But life is about facing our fears. And it’s about healing ourselves. No one can do this for us. I couldn’t pick a safer or more supportive environment for this type of work. And I thank myself regularly for giving myself the gift of healing through sound. How or why it works is fun to understand, but isn’t necessary in order to experience the impact. Consider giving yourself this gift, that you may walk forward with more love, joy, compassion, patience, and gratitude as you continue your journey in this world.
I am writing this letter on behalf of Ashana Sophia in hopes of her obtaining a grant for her production and recording of her beautiful voice chanting praise and performing Yoga of the Voice.
This type of music is now very special to me and in my life. Soon after I began a regular Yoga practice I stumbled upon Krishna Das’s music while searching for “Yoga music” on Pandora radio. I was deeply drawn to the sound of the chanting. Not long after my first discovery of this music I found myself at a presentation of Kirtan that was being held at a local Yoga Studio where Ashana Sophia sang these chants. Though I was drawn to it and felt it was somehow familiar to me, I needed to know the meaning of the words in these chants that I was learning to love to listen to and sing. The Chants brought me a peace and calmness that I had only experienced when listening to classical music. I began to study Sanskrit and learned the meaning of the chants while in my RYT Instructor Training. I learned that most of the words were simply praising God! After gaining a deeper understanding of the words that were being sang I became comfortable knowing that the reason I felt so peaceful and calm when I chanted was because of the fact that I was praising God. As I have continued listening to this music for my leisure time, and my Yoga Practice, I have learned many of the words by heart and I rely on them during the day to bring me back to that place of peace and calm. Learning this “Yoga of the Voice” has brought me even closer to who I really am, “my true self”. The music has softened my heart, it has softened me, it has become my way of giving praise and thanks with my voice and with my heart!
~Sincerely, Gretchen Kaltenbach, The Yoga Garden/Owner, Director of Nursing at Genesis Behavioral Hospital
“My first experience with Kirtan also happened to be my first day of Yoga teacher training. Ashana had her harmonium set up in the middle of the studio surrounded by various object that had obvious special meaning. She handed out sticks with a special scent she had personally made to everyone. The smell was delightful as well as complemented the evening. She then went around the room and asked everyone their name and asked us to share a something about our self. After she had made her way around the room you can tell that everyone felt more comfortable being there. She then led us in a call and response type singing as to help everyone become familiar with the song. She then would sing a verse followed by the audience. At first singing in Sanskrit was a bit uncomfortable but I soon fell into the flow of it and it was amazing. Everyone became a part of the chanting as Ashana played the harmonium and sang. It was a great experience and a wonderful part of my first day of becoming a yoga instructor. I will forever have that experience in my mind in the days of becoming a teacher.
Through the months I attended as many as I could and in that time I learned many Sanskrit songs that I now sing in my own time regularly as well as use them in my yoga teaching practice. I think that Ashana’s Kirtan is an amazing experience of giving and receiving and would share that experience with anyone who would seem interested, or in need of a bit of light in their life in the form of music.”
~ Brandan King
“For the past two years I have been singing with Ashana Sophia and can truly say it has been a transformative experience. Growing up in a very musical family, I myself have always loved to sing, but have been afraid that I am not good enough. Ashana has a gift of tapping in to raw emotions, teaching her students to let go, harmonize and feel into the music, all the while having fun, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. She is incredibly humble, sincere, and fun loving, creating an environment of truth seeking, warmth and love. She is a talented musician and her first CD is exceptionally beautiful. I feel incredibly blessed to attend Yoga of the Voice with Ashana Sophia and we in Lafayette are blessed to have a musician dedicated to the music of the heart. Public and Waldorf school teacher in Thibodaux & New Orleans; last two years living in Lafayette Parish. Love you girl!”
~ Jessica Warner
“I am a fan of Ashana Sophia. When I experience her singing, I immediately feel the love and devotion pouring from her soul. I get chills. She not only sings with such beauty and grace, but her energy is something so pure that the whole room transforms in her presence. That is what it is about to Ashana…the energy from her Soul. Therefore, her music is transcendent and takes me to my soul….She is a singer/artist in the truest sense.”
“Singing with Ashana for me has been a journey into the heart. With loving kindness, as a teacher she offers a gentle nudge into the realm of expression and devotion. These lessons have opened me up countless ways, bringing more joy more love more authenticity in every breath I take. As subtle as chanting may seem it is incredibly powerful. For anyone who is looking to deepen their journey inward, kirtan, (The Yoga of the Voice) is it beautiful, soulful way to go about it.”
~ Neil Gresham, Yoga Teacher, Lafayette Louisiana
“Ashana was our invited guest musician and teacher at the Fifth Annual Gulf Coast Kundalini Yoga Retreat in July 2014 in Magnolia, Mississippi. She and her equally gifted percussion accompanist guided all 40 of us – both long-time and newer “yoga of the voice” practitioners – on a journey of song, chant, poetry, meditation, individual and group reflection, humor and story-telling. Ashana has the natural insight and capacity to offer each person what they need in the present moment of their unique personal transformation and spiritual growth, in a safe, fun atmosphere infused with humility and respect. To hear her sing – and to hear one’s self and others sing with her – is to be graced with a soulful experience.”
~Bill Savage, yoga teacher, Morehouse Parish, Louisiana
“I have had the joy of playing music with Ashana for 5 years and have never meet another musician with such a beautiful combination of talent, dedication and openness. Her angelic voice is soothing and nourishes deep in the heart. Her knowledge of classical cello and Indian music is outstanding. Her creativity and expression is one of pure devotion of the path of Love and healing through sound. Her graceful presence is uplifting and inspiring. Ashana is a true gem inside and out!”
~ Udaya Bryce, Tablas player, Maui, Hawaii
“When I think of my dear friend, Ashana Sophia, I think of the word “exquisite”! The way she parents, the beautiful home sanctuary she created, her cooking, gardens, her eyes 😉 the way she carries that vibration into her perfumery, writings, Music…. everything, exquisite!!! I got a taste of this album when I was home, in Louisiana for Christmas, and tears filled my eyes as her voice, lyrics and music wove their way into my heart, filling it with love. I also felt so proud to know this amazing woman, and get to witness her unfurling all these years. I Highly recommend listening and purchasing her newest cd! Her and Chad Viator worked tirelessly for many moons to master these tracks and birth this into being. What a blessing! May you be blessed by this offering too!”
“I’m nannying a lot lately and when the babies have a hard time I play your music starting with God loves your tears and every time so far they stop crying and go into a deep, peaceful trance.”
~ Jessica Marie