“From the time I was young, I was always drawn to chanting and the way it made me feel. Why did it make me feel that way? What did it mean? Why did people chant mantras? When I realised I could actually learn them and understand them, I knew that finally, the questions I had had since being a child would be answered. It has, in a relatively short period of time, made my Yoga practice and teaching so much more profound! It has also helped me find my inner voice,” says yoga and Veda chanting teacher Poornima Mysore. She is a recent graduate of the Indica Veda Studies TTC and shares how chanting and yoga complement each other, what it takes to start full-time teaching and how even the mundane can become an inspiration.
Sophia: How did your spiritual journey begin?
Poornima: I grew up listening to classical music, Shankaracharya's compositions, and lots of small chants at home. As a teenager, I was introduced to āsana and soon after, to the Yoga Sutra of Sage Patanjali. These helped create a strong foundation of spiritual practices for me, which I didn't realise was happening at the time.
But as I grew up, after meandering about in life, I came back to Yoga and then to chanting. It was a very natural transition into these practices thanks to the foundation that was laid in my early life. So I'd say my spiritual journey began as a child within my home, which slowly grew into me seeking out these practices elsewhere as well.
Sophia: You’re a Yoga teacher and you recently graduated from the Veda Studies’ TTC programme. Tell us about your experience with Veda chanting?
Poornima: It has been a magical experience right from the beginning!
From the time I was young, I was always drawn to chanting and the way it made me feel. Why did it make me feel that way? What did it mean? Why did people chant mantras? When I realised I could actually learn them and understand them, I knew that finally, the questions I had had since being a child would be answered. It has, in a relatively short period of time, made my Yoga practice and teaching so much more profound! It has also helped me find my inner voice. I am not sure when this transformation actually came to be, but I have become increasingly confident with my voice — chanting out loud, teaching with confidence, speaking my mind, sharing my learnings with conviction. It continually brings immense clarity to my thoughts and speech!
Sophia: Yoga is now a global movement. How can Indian teachers and practitioners contribute to maintaining the authenticity of Indian spiritual practices?
Poornima: I think every teacher of Indic knowledge systems, whether they are Indian or not, has a responsibility to be true to the philosophy and the generations of wisdom and learning that are a part of these systems. We have a responsibility to treat them with respect and revere the profound wisdom contained in scripture and practice. We have a responsibility to study them well, transmit them in the most accurate way possible, and to continually learn, grow and correct our mistakes so we can do justice to keeping this knowledge alive.
Sophia: What are some of your favourite mantras and why?
Poornima: Oh that's a difficult question because every mantra is so uniquely lovely! But if I have to choose, then Medha Sūktam has been special for me from the day I heard it. It is a prayer for one-pointed focus and retention power, which has been an area of focus for me in Yoga for a long time. From the moment I heard it, I had the urge to learn it, memorise it, and chant it all the time! And of course the Gāyatri mantra, especially as a japa (repetition) — may I know the highest truth and be able to find my peace within this eternal wisdom. It is such a short and simple yet powerful practice.
Sophia: How does Veda chanting complement your Yoga practice?
Poornima: I did not know how these practices would complement each other when I started but I quickly saw the deep interconnectedness of these practices.
Sound, breath, focus, silence have been the main themes that connect these two practices for me. Veda chanting lends itself to deep meditative practices and states of being, intense focus, and a calm energy. For me, Veda chanting and Yoga together help bring focus, calmness, peace, and silence to my inner world as I navigate everyday life.
Sophia: What would be your advice to young people who want to practise and teach Yoga, Veda, chanting, etc?
Poornima: Unless you have a sound financial background, start your teaching journey along with your main work. Only once you are confident that you can support yourself and those dependent on you financially with just teaching, you can dive into it full-time with confidence. If you have support from the family and community on this journey, it can provide a lot of peace of mind and give you a safety net as you build your teaching practice. It is also a source of great comfort that those around you wholeheartedly understand and support your choices and journey.
Sophia: Name some of your favourite books on Yoga?
Poornima: Yoga Philosophy of Patañjali with Bhāśvati by Swami Hariharānanda Āraṇya.
- Sāṁkhya Kārikā of Īṣvara Kṛṣṇa
- All of Swami Dayananda Saraswati's books are treasure troves of knowledge for both my Yoga and Vedic studies
Sophia: Who are some of your biggest spiritual inspirations?
Poornima: I have always found inspiration in the everyday, the mundane, more than in one person or idea. Elderly cab and bus drivers who have blessed me and my journey; heartfelt conversations with a tribal community in a remote village; animals that have shown me unconditional trust and love; strangers who have stood by me in times of need. These beings, situations, and experiences have been my teachers and guides, helping me learn invaluable life lessons to help me on my spiritual journey at every step. It is possible for every single one of us to find inspiration in daily life. That does not mean not having one person who we look up to, but everyday can inspire us to keep moving forward with conviction on our path.
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