Narayani is known for her powerful devotional singing and for facilitating voicework that opens the heart and encourages our highest expression. Here, she tells how yoga led her to discover her own resonant voice.
What, when and where was your first experience of yoga?
I started yoga when I was about 23 when I was working in a London Health Club. I went to my first class with my mother who was already keen. When I stopped working at the club I had to find another class. The teacher gave me a Sivananda Yoga Centre flyer and as he did the thought went through my head: “Wouldn’t it be interesting if in a year I could say this moment changed my life?” A year later I had given up my new job as a travel agent, stopped drinking alcohol and had left for the New York Ashram to do my Yoga Teacher Training. It was in that training that I discovered my ability to sing, which happened when I was made to lead my first Kirtan!
What made you decide to move from student to teacher?
I had been practising yoga at the Sivananda Centre and discovered my love of Kirtan in their Satsangs. It really felt like a calling, firstly to teach yoga and later to sing Kirtan. I just knew I needed to go and do the yoga teacher training and it did change my life. The philosophy was what really struck me. Suddenly I had a system that made sense to me, in a way that religion and philosophy before had not. When I returned from living in the Ashram, it was the year that all the big American kirtan singers came through London. Two really significant things happened that year. The first was when I was at Krishna Das’s concert, I had a really strong feeling I was meant to be sitting where he was rather than in the audience. The second was when I met Chloe Goodchild who was doing a series of concerts in London as well. As I sat in the room with her for the first time, again I felt a calling, that I had to go and train with her. Although it took me another year to get the courage to do it, it was through that that I began to really understand my ability to sing and was encouraged to go out to start leading Kirtan and to share the voicework that I was learning with her.
What teaching tip has had the biggest influence on the way you practice? And the way you teach?
In my practice the main tip that has influenced me is the advice - to do something, however small, every day.
What does your own self-practice involve?
I try and practice at least a small amount daily. If I get to do a full practice, I do about 40-50 mins of yoga, which varies depending on the time of my cycle and what my needs are that day, 10-15 min pranayama, 20-30 mins meditation and of course chanting! Mat and I make sure everyday we meditate and sing at least one Kirtan each morning.
If you only had 10 minutes to practice, what would you do?
Meditation and chanting are my priority so I would sit for 5 mins and sing for 5 mins. If I had time for 10 mins physical practice as well I would probably do sun salutations. I have always loved them and find they are a beautiful way to warm up my body for the day.
Who/what is the biggest inspiration on your yoga journey at the moment?
Swami Gurusharananda, from Ma Sharanam Ashram, India. He is a really incredible Kirtan and Bhajan singer and a wonderful yoga teacher of Swakriya Yoga which uses mantra in the practice, which I am just beginning to learn more about myself.
What role does yoga play in the way you live?
Yoga in its entirety is really central to my life in almost everyway. The philosophy has become a very important influence on how I try to live my life.
What do you hope your students experience when they practise with you?
In Kirtan, Voicework, and in Yoga I hope to just provide fertile ground for people to experience themselves more fully.
Which yoga text could you not live without?
I love the Bhagavad Gita
What’s your favourite yoga pose to do and to teach?
My favourite poses are the forward bends, they remind me to surrender to the flow of life and not resist it!
Describe the meaning of yoga in 10 words or less.
To fall in love with life and with ourselves.