Immersion into sound: what happened on an intensive naad yoga training week

Naad yoga Raj Academy

Me and my sarangi. Photo by Laure Teyssendier

From my indie club DJ days to working for NME magazine, music has always been a big love. And when I first happened upon kundalini yoga… well, the music was the first thing I fell for.

Then, about a year ago, I went to this eight-hour wahe guru meditation and I chanted through the night with a group of naad yogis and their beautiful traditional string instruments. It was an experience of being completely immersed in the sound current, and it sealed the deal: naad yoga was for me.

Naad yoga Raj Academy

Beautiful Preet helping Soiliho with his taus, photo by Laure Teyssendier

I signed up to Raj Academy’s naad yoga teacher training with the main aim to learn how to sing mantras, plus I think we could all do with some work on the throat chakra. To support our voice, the course requires that we learn to play an instrument too. Bearing in mind, the only experience I have of music is listening to it (apart from DJing and a rudimentary foray into learning the ukulele – one day I’ll be able to play Long Time Sun!), I was a bit intimidated. But I found a sarangi – a Sikh cousin to the violin – and now I’m learning to play it… a screechingly slow but sure process.

Naad yoga Raj Academy residential week

Beatriz and Diana playing Raag Asa on sarangi

The three-year course is mainly online, with a few weekend meetings peppered throughout the year, and a residential week to bring everyone up to speed. Prior to the residential week, I’d spent three months in India with no sarangi, no singing practice apart from the odd kirtan, and no online progress… so I felt absolutely unprepared, with visions of me doing a solo screech while everyone else spins out Rakhe Rakanhar with aplomb. Meh.

However, I braved it. I packed up my instrument and went to Galicia to meet all the other year one naad yogis from across Europe. And I’m so glad I did. What a beautiful week! The teachers – Sampuran and Anant from Spain along with a host of senior students – were so patient, kind and supportive. It really didn’t matter that I was desperately behind; they lovingly held the space for me and a few others to be exactly where we were at, screeches and all. No pressure.

Naad yoga Raj Academy

Senior students Nimrat (rabab), Yiina (sarangi) and Maurizio (rabab), photo by Laure Teyssendier

One of the aims of the naad yoga course is to immerse us in the emotional signatures contained within the music notes, based on the Indian system SA, RE, GA, MA, PA, DHA, NI. We were launched into the beautiful surrounding Galician nature to discover these signatures through her. I spent the week singing to trees to learn Chandovati, diving into rivers for Krodha, getting lost in forests to find Usha, lying starfished in meadows to experience Ratta, allowing nature to teach me the different nuances of each emotion.

Naad yoga Raj Academy intensive week

Diana and I on an adventure to find Krodha

But more than the emotional signatures, the intense daily singing and sarangi-playing sessions, the chanting meditations with Professor Surinder Singh, and the beautiful group of fellow yogis, I learnt something incredible about naad. I discovered a powerful, creative force that is way bigger than my singing and sarangi practice. It’s early days in my studies, but this sound vibration that’s purring through the fibres of my life has manifested all sorts of magical synchronicities since returning home. Oh yes, there is definitely something in this naad.

On a practical level, after the week, I can actually play a tune – a beautifully simple Raag Asa – on my sarangi! I’m a loooooong way off joining the naad yogis on the stage for the all-night simran, but it certainly looks like a sweet journey to get there.

Sat nam x