Harmonium Q & A with Yoga Instructor Bernie Marchand
Please tell us about your harmonium
My harmonium is a Bina 23, and is made especially for traveling. It is a very popular model and brand, it has a wonderful sound. Harmoniums are quite heavy so it is not an instrument that works for everyone and every place.
When did you start playing?
I started messing around on my friend's harmonium a few years ago, I bought this one last year on retreat in Sonoma.
How did you learn to play?
I took a one day workshop with Hari-Kirtana Dasa in DC that reviewed the basics of harmonium playing and Sanskrit chanting. Admittedly, I was the worst in the class. I use the harmonium more as a meditative tool and an accompaniment to chanting than to learn as an instrument. I love the sound of the harmonium so I create really simple melodies to chant over.
How do you incorporate the Harmonium into your yoga classes?
I like to use it at the beginning and sometimes, at the end of class, to teach a chant. I remember the first time I chanted. I was in Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Landing in Chattanooga. I rolled my eyes when I was told we would chant that day. I thought, "I have no interest in this." And then we chanted- I felt amazing, I felt connected to everyone around me, and to the divine. I had never experienced anything like that. To this day, I find it absolutely blissful. Harmonium is a great tool to teach chanting because everyone can hide their voice under it if they are self-conscious.
What has the response been from your yoga students?
I have been pleasantly surprised with the response from my students. I was always fearful students would feel too much pressure to sing or be spiritual when I led chanting. However, over the past year, more and more students have tried it and even requested it! I love chanting with other people, it is such a wonderful way to remember why we practice yoga- to feel connection.