Banking on Yoga

May 20, 2007

Author: Lisa Kocian

Source: The Boston Globe

Just before 5 a.m. on a recent Saturday, a few threads of dawn light were starting to show through the French doors that line one wall of the Baba Siri Chand Yoga Center in Millis. In the dimly lighted room, a half-dozen men and women wearing white turbans sat on the floor, reading prayers aloud in Gurmukhi, an ancient Indian language. "Ek ong kar, sat nam," chanted members of this small community of Sikhs, followers of a religion far less known in the United States but with many adherents in India.

"Even if you don't understand, you still get the effects of elevating yourself," said Jai Kartar Kaur. Her legs were crossed in front of her as she chanted. With the sky starting to look more blue than black, the room began to fill up. In front of the windows, Manjit Kaur Khalsa, a longtime member of the ashram community, instructed the group to briskly rub their hands together, bring them together in front of their hearts, and then inhale. Breathing out, they filled the room with the sound of "Om" -- and yoga class began.

Members of the Guru Ram Das Ashram and Gurdwara, where 25 people live and practice a religion that is foreign to most, are reaching out to the world, trying to build their yoga-instruction business as a way to serve the community and bolster the ashram's future. People from all over New England flock to the yoga center, which sits next to the ashram in Millis, to take classes and train to be teachers.