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Uncover The Magic: Understanding The Sacred Power Of Kirtan ✍

The Sacred Power Of Kirtan ✍ | School Yoga Institute | Header Desktop

In this blog, we will explore the historical foundation of Kirtan, its role as a spiritual
yoga practice as well as exploring the benefits of a regular Kirtan or chanting practice, and what to expect when joining a Kirtan event. Let’s begin! ☝

“KIRTAN IS A WAY TO GET IN TOUCH WITH THE DIVINE WITHIN US; A WAY TO CONNECT WITH THE ONENESS THAT EXISTS IN ALL OF US.”

– KRISHNA DAS

Kirtan is an increasingly popular practice that is weaving its way into the modern yoga scene, while it may feel new and unfamiliar in more secular states Kirtan is a traditional practice of direct union with the divine and is one of the most ancient forms of spiritual practice.

In this blog, we will explore the historical foundation of Kirtan, its role as a spiritual yoga practice as well as exploring the benefits of a regular Kirtan or chanting practice, and what to expect when joining a Kirtan event.

1. WHAT IS KIRTAN

Kirtan is an ancient form of devotional worship through singing that originated in India and is now practiced all over the world. Kirtan involves the repetition of bhajans, mantras or sacred phrases often in a call-and-response style; traditional Kirtan events are accompanied by musical instruments such as the harmonium, tabla, and kartals, while more modern interpretations of Kirtan also include guitars.

The word Kirtan, pronounced keer-tahn, is derived from the Sanskrit root to call, praise, or glorify. It is an important aspect of Hindu culture originating over 2,500 years ago as a practice of celebration and veneration of different gods and goddesses. For many it is a foundation of their personal relationship with the divine, participants often invoke specific deities such as Hindu gods and goddesses, such as Krishna, Rama, Sita, Ganesha, Ram, Kali, Shiva, Durga, and Lakshmi. Kirtan can be understood as a practice of Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of devotion, Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of wisdom and mantra, and the sacred repetition of syllables, words, or phrases.

The tradition of Kirtan upholds deep roots of Hindu worship and it is also present in Buddhist and Sikh traditions.

2. THE HISTORY OF KIRTAN

The roots of Kirtan practices can be traced back to over 1,000 years to the Vedic scriptures. The Vedas are made up of hymns and chants that were sung in praise of the gods, before the Vedas it is believed that spiritual wisdom was shared through the chanting of these hymns or poems.

The practice of Kirtan has since evolved, with different styles and traditions emerging in various parts of India. The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of Kirtan as awareness and popularity surrounding Yoga and Eastern Spiritualism. Today, kirtan continues to be a popular form of devotional music, with artists and practitioners such as Krisna Das, Jai Uttal, Deva Premal and Miten and Nina Ra bringing Kirtan to popular media. Artists around the world are using it as a means of spiritual expression and connection.

Kirtan remains a powerfully authentic way of sharing wisdom and connecting with the divine that is becoming more and more accessible and recognised.

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3. KIRTAN AND THE POWER OF VIBRATION

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.” – Nikola Tesla

Kirtan songs or phrases are traditionally written Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language that works with vibrational frequency. It is from this ancient understanding of the subtle energies that exist within every living being, every aspect of the planet and so in every word spoken. It is from this fundamental understanding that kirtan draws its power. Interestingly modern science is beginning to understand this relationship to energy and how the spoken word can have an energetic effect, taking the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto for example. He found that placing the written word ‘love’ and the word ‘hate’ under 2 plain glasses of water for 24hrs actually changed the molecular structure of the water.

The Sanskrit alphabet holds such a strong energetic quality that is empowered in a Kirtan practice. Singing the mantras, songs, and phrases repeatedly become integrated into the singer’s consciousness and through their vibrational frequency have a powerful and transformative effect on the mind and body. Kirtan practices are always entered into with an intention of love and devotion and so practitioners often experience feelings of joy, peace, and connection that last far beyond the practice itself. Often those who struggle to sit in meditation find the practice of Kirtan especially potent, providing focus for the mind and inviting openness through the power of vibration.

One concern people often have before joining a kirtan event or even participating is not having a thorough knowledge of Sanskrit. As Sanskrit is a vibrational language a developed understanding is not necessary, most mantras are simple, and skilled kirtan facilitators will offer explanations of the songs sung.

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4. THE HEALING POWER OF KIRTAN

BENEFITS OF KIRTAN?

Like other forms of yoga, kirtan is best understood through direct experience, this practice of pure devotion and celebration invites practitioners to go deep inside and connect to the divinity or oneness that is Yoga.

SPIRITUAL CONNECTION

Kirtan can help individuals deepen their connection to the divine or spiritual realm by focusing their minds on the sacred sounds and vibrations.

STRESS REDUCTION

Chanting and music have been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Kirtan can be a meditative and calming practice that helps individuals release tension and anxiety.

IMPROVED MOOD

Kirtan can boost mood and promote feelings of happiness and joy. The communal nature of the practice can also foster a sense of connection and belonging

ENHANCED FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that musical training improved executive functioning and working memory in children.

The repetition of mantras in kirtan can help individuals cultivate mindfulness and focus, which can carry over into other areas of life.

PHYSICAL & ENERGETIC BENEFITS

ENHANCED FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that musical training improved executive functioning and working memory in children.

The repetition of mantras in kirtan can help individuals cultivate mindfulness and focus, which can carry over into other areas of life.

KIRTAN AND THE THROAT CHAKRA

“Kirtan is a direct path to freeing the voice within” – Sean Johnson

In yogic philosophy, the throat chakra, or Vishuddha chakra, is associated with communication, expression, and creativity. When this chakra is balanced and open, a person is able to communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively and authentically. A blockage in this chakra can manifest in a weakness of voice, neck tension, inability to speak or fear of being heard.

The repetitive vibration of chanting and singing in Kirtan invites action and balance to the throat chakra. It is thought that the act of singing and chanting helps to clear any blockages in the throat chakra, allowing for a more free and open expression of oneself.

Typically, Kirtan is practiced in a group setting, which can foster a sense of community and connection in which one’s voice is heard and accepted in part of the whole group. This sense of connection can also help to balance the throat chakra, as it allows for a deeper connection with oneself and with others.

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5. THE PRACTICE OF KIRTAN. WHERE TO START?

You’ve likely already begun to explore a chanting practice, have you ever been in a Yoga class where the teacher has invited the class to join in a round of “Om” or perhaps practiced a Kundalini or Ashtanga class where the teacher has shared an opening prayer or song. These are all minor introductions of Mantra, joining in with these or starting to work with your own Mantra is a great way to begin to incorporate chanting and eventually Kirtan into your spiritual practice.

Many Kirtan artists such as Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Jai Uttal, and Bhagavan Das, have recorded various Kirtan albums, you may even be familiar with many of their songs as they are often used in modern yoga class playlists. Exploring different sub-genres and styles of Kirtan is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the music.

6. WHAT TO EXPECT AT A KIRTAN EVENT

Finally, the power of Kirtan is very much held in coming into the practice of spiritual devotion with an intentional community. So the only real way to experience it lies in joining a practice.

Kirtan events usually last between 2-3 hours with songs being repeated for 10 minutes or more, often the leader of the song will deepen the experience of the event by modifying each song for example speeding the pace so much it can build to ecstatic celebration or slowing the chant to a soulful beat. Each song is followed by mindful silence in which the practitioners allow the vibrational effect of the song to integrate into their being.

7. KIRTAN AT SCHOOL YOGA INSTITUTE

At School Yoga Institute we recognize the powerful and multi-faceted effect of Kirtan practice and have felt and seen its transformative nature countless times. Within our Yoga Teacher Training courses, we love to come together in community to share the joy of devotion through this ancient practice.

Have more questions about Kirtan or want to learn about our yoga teacher training? We’re here to help! If we can support you in any way please contact us!

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