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Penn State University's Vedic Society Hosts Spiritual Yoga

By: for The Collegian on Aug. 29, 2009
Photo Credits: Daniel Bott
Musicians lead a Yoga of Sound Vibrations at Heritage Hall on Wednesday evening.
Even students who know about yoga's stretches and exercises may not know how to relax their minds through the power of chant.

The Penn State Vedic Society presented "Yoga of Sound Vibrations," a venue of call-and-response chanting, in the Paul Robeson Cultural Center's Heritage Hall on Wednesday.

The style of yoga, called Kirtan Yoga, uses chanting and musical instruments to control the mind and attain spiritual consciousness, according to the society's pamphlet. Kirtan group Vraja played traditional Hindu music to help the attendants attain a more spiritual state of mind.

"If you have to be happy, you have to be peaceful," Vedic Society member Narayan Veeraraghavan said. "In order to deal with your mind, you have to have some engagement, and you engage it through sound vibration."

The Kirtan group, called Vraja, recited the "Hare Krishna" mantra, frequently varying the rhythm while a projector displayed peaceful images and the chant's lyrics in the background.

The Vedic Society invited the Kirtan group's leader, whose spiritual name is Govinda das, to lead the Kirtan group in the chants.

Govinda das played the harmonium, an instrument resembling a mix between a keyboard and an accordion. The rest of the band played a clay drum called a mrdanga and hand cymbals.

Before he converted to Hinduism, Govinda das worked in New York City and was dissatisfied with the way his life was going.

"When I was 23 years old, I was searching for higher values in life," he said.

After converting to Hinduism in New York, Govinda das traveled to India. He moved to Vrindavan, India, in 1998 and is one of the participants in a 24-hour chant there.

Through chanting, Govinda das said he could "attain self-realization very easily."

Because the hot Indian summers are not good for his health, Govinda das spends that time practicing Kirtan in colder climates, he said.

Veeraraghavan said people practice yoga as an exercise, but through Kirtan Yoga, people can think of it as a lifestyle.

"What we're trying to do is to have the students have a connectiveness with themselves so that they're more peaceful," he said.

"It's kind of a stress buster."

Some students were confused they were not doing exercises, and some rose to dance halfway through the session. Sam Wilton (junior-engineering science) said he was also confused there was no structured physical activity during the show.

However, others knew what they were getting themselves into. Mark Nichols (junior-bioanthropology) said his best friend is a yoga instructor in Allentown and is well aware of the difference of style between chanting and performing exercises.

"I think most Americans think of this as an exercise," Nichols said. "The movements are a very small part of what yoga is."
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