Updated: Aug 23, 2022
“Kirtan is the glue that bonds our hearts together.”
~ David Newman
WHAT IS KIRTAN?
Kirtan is very simple and powerful way to meditate. It is part of an ancient form of Yoga known as Bhakti - the Yoga of Devotion. The word "kirtan" or "kirtana" translates into "telling, narrating, enumerating, or describing."
Kirtan chants are usually sung in call-and-response style where the wallah (leader) sings the mantra, and the group sings it back. There may be several instruments or it could be as simple as a single harmonium or guitar. You might think of it as a sing-along, like sitting around a campfire. Everyone sits on the floor, although chairs are usually available. The songs are a beautiful tapestry of Sanskrit, English, and other languages; however, Kirtan is non-denominational, the Universal language of Spirit, the song of the Soul.
WHY PRACTICE KIRTAN?
Kirtan is all about community, people coming together. Just like so many other yogic practices, kirtan allows you to release stress, tension and anxiety. The various chants and mantras sung together could be thought of as medicine for the soul. The word "mantra" is made up of two halves: "man," the root of "manas," meaning "mind"; and "tra," meaning "vehicle" or "instrument," referring to a chant’s ability to transport the mind from one state to another. When chanting in a group, music’s ability to bring people together allows the energy of the whole room to be transported to another level, where all voices become One Voice.
WHO CAN PRACTICE KIRTAN?
Kirtan is for ALL people!
There are no masters of kirtan, no experts, no teachers, no advanced students, no beginners. There is no right or wrong way to sing kirtan. A voice that sings allows expression to flow and emotion to be released, which is perhaps why we need this aspect of yoga now more than ever in the modern day world.
Aesthetics don’t matter. All that matters is the spirit, the feeling. Don’t worry about what you sound like. Feel whatever you feel, have no expectations, no inhibitions. Kirtans are mostly written in Sanskrit, which is a language that may be new to you. Because kirtan singing is repetitive and the lead singer is going to be singing the same line again and again and again, you will get plenty of chances to catch up. If you don’t get it the first time, try again. Be patient with yourself and have fun!
WHY SHOULD YOU MAKE KIRTAN PART OF YOUR YOGA PRACTICE?
The feeling of chanting with others in a kirtan is like no other sensation. The energy created by the different voices, bodies, and minds in the room all chanting and directing their energy towards the same thing is enough to really make anyone understand why this is true medicine for the soul. Mantra and kirtan are such a wonderful part of the whole of yoga, and gathering together with others to chant brings a whole new dimension to a practice that has so much potential beyond the yoga mat.
OM. Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.
Lisa and Kevin
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