Music has always been a deep and profound influence on my life – I’ve followed bands across the country and have played in bands myself since high school. So imagine my surprise and delight when I encountered kirtan for the first time while on a retreat.
“You mean there’s a yoga practice that’s music? Sign. Me. Up!”
Kirtan is essentially a call-and-response sing along where the lyrics are often mantras that are chanted and sung in Sanskrit. Like similar call-and-response traditions in Latin or Hebrew, chanting in the ancient and energetic language of Sanskrit can be a powerful experience, focused entirely on the sound and the moment instead of focusing on the words. Kirtan is an extremely easy and accessible, yet subtle and powerful form of meditation. Singing together in a room full of people buoys and supports each singer, no matter how good or bad a voice you think you have, until the worry about how you sound dissolves in the sound of all voices merging into one.
On the Kripalu website one of my teachers, David Newman, gives an awesome description of kirtan, calling it:
“a practice for cutting through the idea of separation, for connecting to our hearts and connecting to the moment through sound.”
If you’ve never experienced kirtan before, then get ready! And if you have sung kirtan before well, get ready too! Because I’m putting together the BYC House Kirtan Band and we’ll be playing at the Center soon (email me if you’re interested in playing in the band), and I also hope to bring some of the big names in kirtan to the Center for concerts and workshops.
As with everything, we’re just getting started, so stay tuned and we’ll be announcing our first kirtan concert soon!