As we sat cross-legged on the floor my friend Sarah leant across to me and whispered 'Sing. You'll enjoy it. Try not to be British and awkward about it.' Little does she know singing is the only form of group participation I like.
Years ago my friends Rich and Neil lived on a canal boat moored in a quiet rural area. One night, fuelled by craft beer and good wine we started singing the name of the company I had recently set up 'withtheband', repeating it like a mantra, playing with the rhythm. Neil started tapping the table, Rich clinked two bottles together. Before we knew it we had their huge kitchen drawer on the floor, its contents our new instruments, our voices getting louder and louder. I remember the moment so vividly because when do we ever, as adults, get to sing at the top of our lungs and not care if we're in key whilst bashing chopsticks against a colander? I'm going to go with 'at Glastonbury/never' as my answer.
Aside from some frosty looks from their sleep deprived neighbours, who were probably looking for the pack of injured cats they assumed had wandered onto the jetty the night before, we felt good the next day. Since then I've always found a good sing-along a fantastic way of clearing the mind and boosting my happiness.
I was intrigued when Sarah mentioned the Kirtan. A form of yoga where you don't have to move a muscle if you don't want to and just use the power of your voice appealed to my sleepy body so I booked a ticket.
Sivani Mata Francis, who had a voice that can only be described as velvet, and the musicians of the Shakti Soul Family led us in a set of mantra based songs. These started slowly and gently, a rumbling of 100 voices in a small yoga studio and built in speed and volume as they went along before returning to a gentle end. With only a few words to say over and over again I found my brain fixated only on them, I stopped thinking about my day, where I was going after, everything.
It took me a little while to sing loudly, blame the Britishness, but when a girl sat next to us handed me an egg shaped shaky instrument I came to life. Naturally blessed in the art of wiggling the shaky egg is truly my spirit instrument. I was having a whale of a time. Each song seemed to cause vibrations in a different body part, starting at hands, moving to feet, settling in the chest.
Looking around for the first time properly since entering the room I noticed there were a lot of younger people, groups of girl friends, this was their alternative Saturday night. I love that. Singing at the top of your voice and dancing around with your friends without alcohol or lecherous drunks. I'm sold.
But what I'm sold on most. A clear head.
[video from a different event to demonstrate]
If you're in London there is a monthly Kirtan in Angel or Google to find a local one.