Jenny Tumas and Jenna Love are both yoga, Sanskrit and Veda recitation teachers, they’re both graduates of the Veda Studies’ first TTC, and they’ve both inspired Veda Studies’ Sophie French to learn how to read and write Devanāgarī. 

Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati said about Sanskrit, “To express the inexpressible truth, a language has to be specially evolved, grammar manipulated and words reinforced to bear deep, suggestive input. Sanskrit is a language which has gone through such purification and has been successfully employed by the great Ṛsi-s to indicate the inexpressible.”

Jenny Tumas (Yoga/Sanskrit/Veda Recitation Teacher based in Wisconsin) and Jenna Love (Sanskrit, Chanting and Yoga Teacher based in Texas) have both studied Sanskrit at the American Sanskrit Institute and they’re both graduates of the first Indica Veda Studies Teacher Training Programme held in 2022. As an Indian who can’t read or write Sanskrit, I recite Veda from English transliteration. I have a deep respect and admiration for both these women who can read and write Devanāgarī. I connected with Jenny and Jenna at 4 am (IST) on a Saturday morning and we talked about Veda, Sanskrit and how reciting Veda affected their spiritual progress. I also found out Jenny is a literature student and loves poetry. Most people who appreciate poetry will love Veda, too. It’s pure poetry, and I was delighted (and a little envious) to learn that Jenna has been meditating and has been exposed to Indic Knowledge Systems since she was 11! 

One of the things I love about being a part of the Veda Studies community is just how many people from across the world can recite Veda and how even though we are all so different, we find unity in this practice and learn from each other under the guidance of our teacher Shantalaji. It is also a humbling experience that inspires me to keep studying, and talking to these ladies about Sanskrit has made me eager to learn the language because of how beautifully their lives and spiritual journeys have been affected by Sanskrit. 

We also talked about how āsana-practice has become such a phenomenon in the West and we all agreed that this is a positive because in India too, many young spiritual practitioners begin their journey with āsana but along the way, delve deeper into the more subtle practices. Jenna is convinced that Sanskrit and Veda recitation will be the next natural progression that will be integrated into the West and Jenny feels this is going to happen with something as basic as respecting āsana names and referring to them in their Sanskrit form… 

I’m in conversation with Jenny and Jenna:

Sophia: What inspired you to tread the spiritual path?

Jenny: Being raised a Catholic established in me a sense that I had a direct relationship to God, a sense of devotion and a feeling that ritual was part of a spiritual life. The story my mother told about having a vision of Mary while sitting alone in church, and her subsequent conversion to Catholicism after, had a lot of influence on me, as did a childhood visit from an Irish cousin, who was a very young nun. I thought there could be nothing better than devotional life but we stopped being practising Christians when I was about 10. My mother took me to my first yoga class, and continued to inspire me over the years as I witnessed her spiritual journey.  My father was a scientist and professor,  but  also had a devotional life that was more inward in him. He loved poetry and literature — and he brought passion to that, which he shared with me. Throughout my life, I have struggled at times to balance these two realms of the sacred and the rational. Learning from Shantala has helped me to integrate heart and mind.

Jenna: “Comfort, clarity and connection” was my response as an 11-year-old meditator and remains the inspiration for my studies and practices to this day. It was the summer of 1998 when I attended a lecture that sparked my excitement about the concept of cosmic consciousness. I remember how I heard the inviting descriptions of consciousness as the ocean and our thoughts as the waves, and being invited to focus on a simple sound to witness stillness as the quieter depths of the ocean. The lecture was an introduction to Transcendental Meditation and I was ready to dive in. 

This commitment was the beginning of a lifelong interest in aligning with the universal truth. After two years of meditation, I had the opportunity to move near my yoga teaching aunt and grandmother who adorned me with an abundance of practices that supported my journey through adolescence. Raised in a home devoid of conversation about spirituality, religion or God, it was in community through Iyengar yoga, Reiki and Feng Shui that I first came to know the value of prayer.

Sophia: You are both teachers from the American Sanskrit Institute. What inspired you to study and then teach Sanskrit?

Jenny: When I began studying to become a yoga teacher, I attended a programme in which the Sanskrit names of āsana-s were emphasised.  These words carried for me an untranslatable essence of the poses and the practice, as well as a distinctive vibrational quality. When I began teaching, I continued to use Sanskrit words, which were also included in philosophical treatises that I encountered and built my practice and teaching on, primarily Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras. In 2011, I was drawn to attend two Sanskrit Immersion weekends offered by the American Sanskrit Institute (ASI) — primarily because the learning methodology was based on the yogic practices of Abhyāsa and Vairāgya, and because these weekends were known to be experiential and transformative. Non-academic, the focus was on supporting each student to lead chanting the alphabet (reading the Devanāgarī script) by the end of the weekend. The profound sense-oriented experience of learning Sanskrit through listening, chanting and seeing led me four years later, to embark on ASI’s teacher apprenticeship programme, so that in 2016, I began leading these same immersions myself. In the yoga teacher trainings that I designed and led at my studio, we began each day with chanting the Sanskrit alphabet, and before we read the Yoga Sūtras in translation together, we chanted them so that we could experience them through sound before we discussed meaning.

Jenna: The desire to align with sacred vibration pulled me to China to study Mandarin and Feng Shui. After completing my courses in the summer of 2009, I was hosted by a Buddhist teacher on a prayer journey to several temples throughout central China and along the way, I was mesmerised by the chanting of Tibetan monks. The language and practices of Tibetan Buddhism were foreign to me yet the vibration felt so familiar as if my soul had returned home. 

The following year, I was invited to attend the American Sanskrit Institute’s Intro to Sanskrit Course. In just one weekend of learning the Sanskrit alphabet, I felt transformed by a completely engaging and embodying experience of sacred sound. The guidance into the anatomy of sound and the exploration of the five points of resonance revealed a direct connection to my own vibration. The invitation to make sound through these points of resonance with the repetition of the alphabet felt like a process of purification. This was the first time that I felt a sense of belonging in my own voice, and it was this brilliant format of discovery that I wanted to share. Three years later, I began my apprenticeship with the American Sanskrit Institute.

Sophia: How has reciting Veda enhanced or changed your understanding of Sanskrit as a spiritual language?

Jenny: My experience of Sanskrit as a spiritual language has been enhanced through reciting Veda. Before I learned of Veda Studies, I had been feeling a desire for several years to apply Sanskrit in chanting. I had taken academic Sanskrit courses, but these felt somewhat empty to me because they focused on grammar and translation. There was very little of the oral element. I had begun to chant Bīja mantras, which felt resonant and empowered – in large part because I had learned them from David Frawley and Shambhavi Chopra at a retreat by the Gaṅgā. But these sounds seemed just a sketch or hint of something larger. At that point, I really knew nothing about reciting the Veda. I knew a fellow ASI colleague was chanting, and I asked if she could teach me. Instead, she told me about Shantala. Soon after, I enrolled in the Veda Studies Foundation Course, and being there in that first class felt like coming home. The deepest part of me recognised Veda recitation as something I had always been seeking, without fully knowing it, and Shantala as my teacher. Reciting Veda has been an awakening process for me, immersing me in this tradition in a sort of baptism by fire, in which I bring to bear my mind, heart and soul with a challenging, rewarding effort. Shantala says that reciting Veda channels the chaos of one’s mind. This is true for me. Doing this practice before meditation clears the space. The sustained focus and the grace create the conditions for a long sitting practice much more effectively than trying to still the mind in other ways. Chanting in this lineage has also brought devotion back into my life, and connected me to the elemental energy of the deities. 

Jenna: Sanskrit is a multidimensional language and Veda is rich with layers of meaning and practice. The American Sanskrit Institute teaches through spiritual text to ensure that as we are learning grammar we are in deep contemplation. I remember the frequent expression among Sanskrit classmates and colleagues as we studied together, often experiencing a shared “wow” moment of silence and stillness as we would be in awe of the brilliance and spiritual essence of the language. 

I found myself engulfed in the vibrations of chanting again at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, (Pennsylvania) during the 2017 Yoga and Sound retreat with my teacher Ramanand Patel and Pandit Mukesh Desai. There I was positioned by Ramanand in supreme alignment while guided by Mukesh to chant the divine mantra, “Namaḥ Śivāya,” “Oṃ Namo Bhagavate Vāsudevāya” and many more. Then absorbing Veda recitation during morning and evening arati in the temple. Before leaving, I had requested a method to learn chanting Veda and the answer was to move to an ashram to study, this was not available to me at the time and I did not have access to any resources where I lived. I waited patiently until I was introduced to Shantala online in 2021 and plunged right into all of the courses she was offering at that time. 

Reciting Veda is a personal experience as each mantra has a specific power. The access to the various layers of meaning and insight depend upon the current circumstances of each practitioner. I have occasional experiences of memories that had been long forgotten flooding into my awareness while reciting Veda. This opportunity to reflect on these cherished moments and also reevaluate challenging events is clarifying and develops an advanced perception of the self. Veda is purification, love and wisdom.

Sophia: Tell us about your experience with Veda Studies and how it affects your spiritual progress?

Jenny: Practising with Shantala at Veda Studies deepened my spiritual practice in the ways I mentioned above, and going through the Veda Studies Teacher Training Programme accelerated that growth. One way it did that is by giving me skills to share Veda recitation with my students.  Teaching has been a primary part of my spiritual practice for a long time, so it was a natural, though very challenging, step for me to apply to and be in this programme, so that I could begin to offer Veda recitation, as well as Nitya Prārthana to students. The desire to do as well as possible in accurately replicating the many details of these mantras and prayers is built into this lineage, and when preparing to present to and lead students, that desire to do well becomes even stronger. All the elements of teaching, such as acting with compassion and clarity are brought in.  All that is woven together as spiritual practice.

Jenna: The feeling of comfort, clarity and connection has been enriched by Veda Studies. Shantala’s presence transmits passion for Veda recitation from her mother, technical precision of the Challakere brothers, and wisdom of Veda from several more masters and lineages. Shantala shares generously and lovingly while naturally instilling an emotional and spiritual connection. 

I feel that the Veda Studies programmes are designed to push individuals to explore their obstacles and limitations. I have experienced significant improvement in my capacity, memory and comprehension. Initially, the changes are prevalent in the context of recitation, then revealed in daily life. With years of svara practice, I developed the ability to sight-read with correct tone and noticed that I was also beginning to sight-read piano sheet music, something I had never done before. 

I felt so much power and purpose when I first began studying the Veda Studies Foundation Course as if this was becoming my new full-time career in just those first five modules of learning invocations and śanti mantras. I am impressed with how many courses Shantala has published and even more impressed with how many I have studied in addition to the 2023 Indica Veda Studies Teacher Training Programme. I tend to graduate from one text to another at a slow and steady pace as my intention is to fully absorb every subtle detail and develop an intimate relationship with each aspect before accumulating more practices. 

Learning more about the source of a mantra and its significance builds upon the understanding and the experience of its meaning. In addition to expanding my personal practice, this method also grooms my authenticity and confidence in teaching mantra to my students. I am honoured to be a student of Shantala and to continue the lineage of the Mysore sampradaya.

Sophia: Which mantras resonate most with you and why?

Jenny: I will say, echoing Shantala, that every mantra is my favourite!  I especially love the sounds and rhythms of the Agni mantra-s — perhaps because they are the first mantra-s in the Ṛg Veda they carry a certain primal feeling. And reciting Medhā Sūktam led to a breakthrough for me while in teacher training. I realised that I simply wasn’t applying my mind nearly as strongly as I could, and that concentration and retention was something I strongly needed. I realised that for a long time, I had resisted using my mind in its full capacity. I needed the support of Medha, and I received that grace yet also with the realisation that much more effort was required. But if I have to choose one it will be Rudram, Anuvāka 1. In just the first few times I chanted, it filled me and embraced me with a loving energy. In fact, with every new anuvāka, I had this experience of being bathed in love. I think this must be Rudra. Also, in the weeks before and after a recent major surgery, I recited a lot of Rudram and  Camakam, which carried me through to a strong recovery.

Jenna: As Shantala consistently claims that all mantras are her favourite, I feel the same way. A mantra becomes personal and sentimental through the call-and-response experience with a teacher and therefore it is as if asking a parent “which of your children are your favourites?” Whatever I’m reciting in that particular moment is my favourite. I am currently learning Camakapraśnah and I’m experiencing a certain sweetness in the learning process that feels different and more magical than anything else that I’ve practised before.  

Sophia: Shantalaji complements the practical aspect of reciting Veda with various courses on theory as well. How has the theoretical aspect of this practice affected your practical experience?

Jenny: Shantala’s Veda Theory Masterclass (part 1)  course was invaluable for me, especially since I came into these studies with minimal knowledge of Indic knowledge systems, and in particular the Veda. So learning about the structure, timeline and content of the vast collection we call Veda, and what is not Veda, helped me to feel more confident and grounded as a teacher. Also, it’s important to know where our lineage is located in the Veda. I think theory can bring more authenticity into personal practice, as well as teaching, by giving context. The aspect of theory which we call grammar and phonetics is woven throughout Shantala’s courses, and especially in the teacher training course, so that theory is in a large sense not separate. This type of theory is most immediately practical for accurate recitation, which is especially necessary for a teacher.  

Jenna: Precision is the power and beauty of everything in life. Theory gives us the ability to learn with precision. Shantala organised an integrative system for chanting and offers what she calls a “high level overview,” which provides the larger picture to show us as students where we are in our practice and to inspire us to continue in any direction we might want to pursue more as Veda is vast enough to explore for multiple lifetimes. Will my thirst for theory and philosophy ever be quenched?

Sophia: How did you adapt to Sanskrit and reciting Veda as a non-Indian and non-Hindu?

Jenny: With Sanskrit, I never considered that being-non Indian or non-Hindu would mean that I lacked qualifications to study or present the materials I learned to present. Perhaps because I felt a passion for the value of Sanskrit and the methods being used to present it, and perhaps because I was teaching mainly to Westerners. For reciting Veda, I know that the cultural and religious context of being born into an Indian, Hindu family would add richness and depth. Even more so for teaching chanting.  But I offer people these valuable practices, honouring them and their origins as accurately as I can. I try to be welcoming and accessible to all, and also authentic to who I am. Shantala has encouraged her non-Indian students, as well, that we are capable of reciting Veda well despite being non-Indian.  With Veda chanting, as well as with Sanskrit, if one adheres to the accuracy of the oral tradition, and tries to replicate the sounds and chanting of the teacher, one is honouring the living lineage, which seems to me to be the most important thing.

I find that in this community where I live, which includes a Native American population, and in which most students haven’t heard of Sanskrit, and don’t have any sense of why Veda recitation is something anyone might want to do, I have to start on the ground level. I return often to something Shantala once said, which is “all indigenous traditions have some sort of oral, vocal practice.”  I go on to share what might be unique about Sanskrit. If I have the opportunity to teach or present mantra-s, I find “the lesson” that the journey we are on is an inner one, and that we are asking for support in an internal ritual, is one that resonates for a lot of people no matter their religion or background. 

Jenna: I was fortunate to begin my practices with specific and precise experiential instructions applicable to both Indian and non-Indian participants. The format which I was taught and which I also teach is the process of connecting with resonance, rhythm and breath which is accessible to everyone regardless of their native language. 

The value of these experiences are beyond explanation in any language and I feel that my dharma is to share these practices with adults who will benefit as I have. 

I have also been fortunate to be embraced by wise and accepting communities. I appreciate and respect Hindu philosophy and practices and attend courses at Hindu University of America. I have physically studied and taught Sanskrit in several states in the country where I was born and live. I have had the honour of teaching students all over the world due to presenting online. I have participated in a kirtan community with members who are Indian and non-Indian, Hindu and non-Hindu representing every continent and faith. I have also been invited to recite Veda at a Hindu Mandir. 

I was not born Indian, Hindu or male, and I feel blessed that I am connected with classmates and colleagues online that are brilliant chanting teachers with beautiful voices. In the ocean of consciousness whose voice is it anyway? 

Namah Salutations to all the masters, teachers, and women who have made these experiences accessible in this form.  

Sophia: Who are your spiritual inspirations?

Jenny: Spiritual inspirations:  My kids, my mother, my students, my chanting colleagues, my teachers, Shantala. The ṛshī-s and ṛṣīka-s. Those who have defended and supported human rights now and throughout time.

Jenna: I give gratitude to my lifetime devoted teachers Shantala Sriramaiah, yogacharya Ramanand Patel and Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) for years of direct teachings of love and dedication. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, B.K.S. Iyengar and Swami Dayananda Saraswati have graced my life through my teachers. 

Sophia: What are your favourite books on spirituality?

Jenny: I am a reader, and so it depends on what I am reading at the time, but my favourites are spiritual memoirs such as Irina Tweedie’s Daughter of Fire, Adyashanti’s Emptiness Dancing, and Henry Shukman’s One Blade of Grass.  Recently, I have been liking Eknath Easwaran’s introduction and translation of The Upaniṣads. Also Vernon Katz and Thomas Egenes’ translation of The Upaniṣads.

Jenna: The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali  and the Bhagavad Gita are the western gateway to Veda and an integral element in the teachings of all the masters from which I have studied. Any books by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Again, like a mantra, challenging to select favourites, which tend to be whatever it is that I’m reading at the moment. Currently, I’m reading Shiva’s Hologram about the Maheshvara Sutra, which I love teaching, and now with more layers of insight.

Sophia: Any advice for people who want to study and teach Sanskrit and also Veda?

Jenny: Studying Sanskrit will give you a good foundation from which to recite and teach Veda. I would think it essential to know some Sanskrit if you plan to teach Veda recitation. For Veda recitation, learning Vedic Sanskrit rules of phonetics and grammar will improve your understanding of classical Sanskrit, and vice versa. I was a Devanāgarī purist before I began Veda recitation. I then found that my reading skills weren’t fast enough to recite with that script, and so I worked with transliteration — only going to the Devanāgarī after memorising svara.

I think it is very valid to teach transliteration to beginning Veda recitation students and offer the Devanāgarī script later – especially if students are very eager to begin Veda recitation. But also there is a beauty and energy to Devanāgarī, and learning to read it and write it is a meditation in itself.

I think Sanskrit and Veda chanting are complementary, but some of your Sanskrit students will be interested in learning to chant Veda, whereas some will be interested in grammar, studying Pāṇini, and learning to translate. 

A few years ago, I started a Yoga Sūtras study group at my local library, in which we began each session by chanting the alphabet and learning its details, then chanted and discussed yoga sūtras. Eventually, I added in some daily prayers and mantra-s. Sometimes, we have “Sanskrit potlucks” at my house. But now that original library group stays with the sūtras, and I’ve started a Chanting for All group at a local meditation centre where we focus on Veda recitation as well as Nitya Prārthana/daily prayers. Some people come to both. I have also led online sūtra study groups after leading online Sanskrit immersions. This is an example of how Sanskrit can grow into chanting groups and classes – both in person and online.  


  1. Learn the Sanskrit alphabet as a meditative process.
  2. Spend a weekend connecting to your own voice and breath, and apply this experience to everything you do.
  3. Learn to read Devanāgarī. 
  4. Practice with a teacher and with a group. 
  5. Choose a teacher that resonates with your truth (if your teacher doesn’t inspire feelings of love and devotion, keep looking).
  6. Share with anyone who is willing to listen.


For further information on Jenny, visit her website,

For further information on Jenna, visit her website,