By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
There are a number of traditional Yoga techniques that complement the practice of the physical postures of Yoga. Yoga students and teachers alike, often in the interest of time, frequently overlook these techniques. One of the techniques of Yoga that helps to clear out the dark corners of the heart and mind is the practice of chanting or kirtan. Kirtan is the call-and-response singing of mantras. During the practice of kirtan, the vibrations of these mantras fill a Yoga practitioner with divine energy.
As this divine energy penetrates the heart, mind and body of a Yogi or Yogini, the heaviness of tamasic thoughts and emotions begins to lift. When darker thoughts and emotions are dispersed in the light of divine love, one’s heart soars with happiness and peace. This is often the happiness and peace people who become addicted to a whole assortment of substances, activities, and even other people seek that after! However, being addicted to being filled with grace is far healthier and leads to a life that is sustained by independent happiness.
For example, as a die-hard coffee drinker, I would be hard pressed to begin my day without my daily dose of caffeine. In the same way, you may be addicted to sending and receiving text messages on your phone ceaselessly throughout the day, or keeping National Public Radio on in the background for many hours each day, in order to keep your thoughts occupied. There are, of course, more benign substances and stimuli to be addicted to than others. However, the root cause of the addictive process remains quite similar, regardless of the substance or stimulation we are dependent on.
The practice of kirtan is a very healing activity that leads to a sense of optimism, joy and well-being. Although the joy that kirtan generates can be addictive, it has few negative consequences other than the investment of time or a small sum of money to download chants or purchase compact discs. You can practice chanting alone or in a group. There are even entire kirtan festivals held throughout the world every year that boast one or more entire days of continuous chanting mantras. If you would like to practice kirtan in a local group, most active Yoga studios also offer kirtan to their students on a regular basis.
The practice of kirtan is also highly portable. You can chant in your car while you commute to work or drive to a friend’s house. Or you can practice kirtan while you are in the shower! There are a number of streaming web sites that offer listeners their choice of kirtans, from a number of different spiritual traditions, free of charge. Additionally, you can purchase compact discs or mp3's, so that you can have an entire library of uplifting chants at your fingertips.
On an individual level, singing kirtan while doing your daily tasks will connect you to the divine energy and imbue even your most mundane actions with a sense of serving the higher energy of the universe. For instance, if you are washing the dishes and you are really bored, singing a divine mantra will help to fill your body and mind with the light of God. Or, if you are commuting to work on a train or bus, chanting will help to nurture the joy within your own heart, so that a small delay due to a traffic jam becomes an opportunity to enjoy this sublime Yoga practice for a few more minutes, instead of an unavoidable irritation!
If you are a Yoga teacher and you would like to introduce the practice of chanting to your students, but you are not familiar or comfortable with leading a kirtan, downloading a few chants onto your iPod will enable you to easily play a kirtan at the beginning or end of your Yoga class. Singing a chant with simple words will help your students to become comfortable with the practice. The energy and joy that the practice of kirtan fosters is contagious. Once your Yoga students realize how uplifting and healing the practice is, they will begin to incorporate it into their home practice. By doing so, they will truly reap the rewards of a comprehensive Yoga practice.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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