Cultivating a community is a way to create a home no matter where you are in the world. Sangha means community in Sanskrit; we contribute and support each other whether we practice in a shared space or online. When we come together to express a shared intention—be it asana practice, mantra, or meditation—we enhance our ability to evolve through a shared and supportive experience.
We interviewed renowned yoga teacher and bhakta Janet Stone on the power of mantra, Sangha, and Sadhana. Before COVID, Janet traveled worldwide, sharing her voice and practice as a means to create community.
“When I do mantra, my jealousy, fears, anxieties, and depression, whatever the things are, all of it falls away. Whatever’s coming up during this COVID time, whatever’s coming up in your life, when you’re willing to show up and churn and not just choose to go to sleep, Netflix, vices, all this stuff, it’s uncomfortable. So let’s do it together. My one voice mixed with all the voices. Everybody drops their story for a second.” – Janet Stone.
Introducing Janet Stone
If you could be born in any era, what period would you choose and why?
JS— I would choose now because it’s ripe with knowledge. The speed at which things are evolving and growing and shifting is completely rapid fire. In every single moment, we have a choice to go forward, to enter the shadow space and the darker realms. We can pull back and see more of a context of where we are. So I’m just going to go with now.
What are three things you never leave home without?
JS—Compassion, empathy, and acts of kindness and maybe somewhere. I never leave without my intention. Intention helps me with those other three. I try to bring my kids when they’re willing to come with me, but sometimes they’re not. A snack, I’m weirdly always hungry, and turmeric, ginger, and warm water because it’s like my little security blanket.
What’s your superpower?
JS—My superpower is my compassion for humanity and being able to see a larger view. I have this ability to go way out to see the macro view of things, and also really micro; I have a lens that can expand to take it all in, and I can be right here with you and see you as who you are, where you are and hold a context.
How did you come to yoga?
JS— I was in the film industry, and I was there for a dozen years, and I was passionate about it. I worked with the company that did Seinfeld and worked with Larry David, who created it, and many other amazing people, and I loved it. I never meant to leave.
My grandfather and three generations prior had been born and raised in India and what he brought back to my California childhood was enough to plant a seed for sure. Thanksgiving was curry and naan, and all the stories and something about it kind of hit me. I had that moment, you know, Saturn Return, vibes maybe. So I took a hiatus, as they call it in the film industry, and went traveling. One of the places that I stayed in was both India and Nepal, and both of those just were ripe with teachers.
I found a teacher and took up meditation, and this is a whole new level that opened up to me. It was funny and fun and great. I returned to LA and went back to the film industry, but then there was this one moment where someone asked me to step in for them to teach. So I taught the class, and every person in the room asked me where else and when I was teaching.
I felt like it kept going, calling me toward it. Till one day, I was at a dinner party, and I discovered that I wasn’t saying I was in the film industry. I was saying, I’m offering yoga.
When did you start traveling?
JS— I had my babies, my little girls, with me initially. I was pretty young when I was on my own with them. It was just the three of us; I had one on my front, one on my back, and the world was just always like, come here, come here. Travel was an open invitation from the world.
The roots of one place were all of the nutrients I received. In Sadhana, we show up no matter the elements. Rain, shine, happy, sad, divorce, marriage, birth, death. We show up; it doesn’t matter. Every single practice is different, it’s not like today. We come together to sit in Sadhana, and then we all disappear and go back to our busy lives.
Can you share a little about your practice of mantra?
JS—I think being in India and hearing chants in the temples and even up in Nepal, the resonance was what woke something up in me. It’s when I realized I’m not going to figure out enlightenment staying in my mind.
Through mantra, the resonance, sound, and reverberation exist within the vibration. It’s where it all makes sense. The mind drops down into the heart. The heart gets bigger. In this place, I feel that it’s not about me. It’s not about you or me; we’re not telling our story. We’re not performing. I don’t perform. I don’t even sing. I chant. There’s zero performance in Bhakti yoga. Bhakti is devotion; it’s participation. Singing is performative, and there’s zero performance in Bhakti. Bhakti is participating.
When I do mantra, it’s like my jealousy and my fears, anxieties, and depression, you know, whatever the things are, all of it falls away. Whatever’s coming up during this COVID time. Whatever’s coming up in your life, when you’re willing to show up and churn and not just choose to go to sleep, Netflix, vices, all this stuff, it’s uncomfortable. So let’s do it together. My one voice mixed with all the voices. Everybody drops their story even for a second,
What does your practice look like right now?
JS—I’m so geeking out on slow flow and nourish. I’m out in the world, hiking. I offered the anatomy of emotion recently; it’s this course where we dive into where we hold emotions in these places in the body. So I thought, why not, while we’re sitting here, why not go into those places. We forget that we store certain things and places in our bodies.
CRO—I feel like all of my practices lately have been so much slower and so much more still because it feels like the right fit. It feels like the right thing to do. I can’t move quickly right now.
New Class – released Friday, December 11th
Join Clara for a quick prop tutorial on how to use blocks to assist and enhance your practice to create more space and strength in the body.
In every practice, ask yourself: Where am I supposed to feel the stretch in this pose, and how can I best create the shape to facilitate that sensation?
How do you manage your time?
JS—Thank goodness for my film ministry experience. I think producing, and production has helped me understand how to prioritize what to let go of. It’s about cultivating a sense of fierce boundaries.
I was able to take the eight limbs and see how the eight limbs are actually about containment of my life force energy and directing it where I want it to go.
I had no social life. I’ve made choices, and you’ll have to make choices. I’m not special in any way, I don’t have a different time clock than anyone else, but the reason I’m able to do so much is that I know my priorities and my intentions. You’re not seeing me out at the birthday parties that much because I choose to contain and prioritize my energy. Mothering is way up there on my priorities, and sharing my offerings; is where I focus all of my efforts.
I’ve had amazing people from the get-go, like Hanuman people, who come and want to lift this up and want to bring their PhDs and their hearts and their practice and love to this. So much of me feels like I’m on the mountain
being carried by the love and support of people bringing in their genius. And I give all that I can, I’m like, take it, you own it too.
How can we support each other as a global community?
JS— All of the small businesses going out of business, everyone losing their leases, or the payroll, it’s just sort of endless. And I think that by holding a place of compassion for the grieving and letting go of what was, I think we can help each other by really just sitting together. We need to look at it all; it’s like we’ve got to clean the chalkboard, wipe the slate clean.
Staying in integrity with what the teachings are is how we support each other. That means staying to the heart, staying to the root of the teachings, and giving them to other people. I’m giving endless scholarships and telling people to join my offerings and pay whatever they can. Whether you’re a teacher or a student, it doesn’t matter. Be in studentship and arrive.
In terms of coming together, I would encourage you to ask: What do we want to create? How do we want this to go?
What are a few of your online offerings?
JS—Because of the concessions made by Yoga Alliance, we do have a full 300-hour and 200-hour yoga teacher training online. We have a lot of live sessions. We have many social activists and environmental activists, like a lot of special people joining us.
I have a 40-day Sadhana, a daily practice coming up, meaning we all go together. We start, we commit, and we just pour our attention into the practice once a day for 40-days. It’s a powerful practice to be kind of held and show up together.
It’s really about ritualizing. It’s about making a little moment in your day, a ritual. The practice is to make a ritual that alleviates stress instead of jacking up our adrenals with coffee, or picking up the phone, or taking care of everybody else’s needs, or the computer’s needs.
Some rituals involve dry brushing, abhyanga, tongue scraping, or splashing cold water on the face. Every day we do sun salutations and move the body and the joints. It’s not complex. It’s not fancy. It’s simple, just show up for yourself, stay in it day in and day out, just show up for yourself.