Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan – It’s How Yogis Get High

Via on Oct 22, 2011

So over here in New Zealand,  I’m on a mission to make yoga a part of our daily lives.

I’m not talking about everybody doing asana though, I’m talking about Yoga as a state of being.

And of course there’s many ways to get to that state of yoga, the most well-known in the West just happens to be asana.

But there are other fabulous practices that take us to a state of Yoga, like those of Bhakti Yoga.

Bhakti Yoga has gotta be one of the lesser known and yet perhaps most powerful forms of yoga. This is the yoga of devotion, and is often practiced via kirtan – or chanting.

In particular, Bhakti yoga works with the heart – anahata chakra. It’s about love, acceptance and surrender.

And lordy knows we could do with bucketloads more love, acceptance and surrender on this glorious planet of ours. Even on our beloved Elephant Journal, a lot more being Yoga with a solid dose of love and acceptance would do wonders for our sense of community and oneness.

Now, some time ago, we had a small get together at my house for some impromptu kirtan with my friend and fellow yoga teacher Tyag Fenton of Satyanada Yoga. He used to run regular kirtan here in Wellington, but has recently moved to Japan. Our loss, Japan’s gain :(.

Anyway… when Tyag was around, our group of friends would get together every so often just to jam and chant together.

I mean, what better way to spend your social life but chanting sanskrit and opening the heart chakra?

It sounds so vague and New Age-ish, but I am always blown away by the immediate and very real affects of this practice.

When the heart opens, you feel it – like a soft popping within and an explosion outward filling the chest and rising up the outsides of the body to the crown and exiting through to the ceiling. At least, that’s what its felt like to me dring various kirtan experiences.

One time, driving Tyag and some of the others home, I couldn’t get over how high I was. Truly, heart-opening high. In fact, I had to pay specific attention to driving because the feeling was so overwhelming. Tyag laughed, and said:

“Kirtan – it’s how we yogis get high.”

And yep, it sure is. We were high. Our hearts were opened. I felt connected. And I was amazed at how easy it was to just be me, and to enjoy being me. What a joy!

The beautiful thing about that particular kirtan night is that two of the people that came along weren’t yogis – they were musicians. And it was the music they were fascinated by – yet of course, they couldn’t be there taking part without also feeling the affects of the yoga. One guy was so blown away by the experience that afterward he exclaiming,

“Where are the membership forms? Sign me up!”

And that got me wondering… what would happen if a mainstream artist recorded a best selling kirtan hit? Or a kirtan singer crossed over and had a major hit with Om Namah Shivaya or something similar?

I mean, what better way to bring yoga to the people – in an inclusive, heart-opening way? Nothing, out of of all the ways I have practiced yoga, has had such a strong, measurable, easy and pleasurable effect as kirtan.

It’s like taking a pill that instantly opens your heart and makes you feel like you love everyone and you’re part of this huge interconnected whole and you just want to dance and sing.

Oh wait.

They’ve already got a pill for that :)

And I can say that Bhakti Yoga and kirtan has just as strong an effect on consciousness and experience as the very best pure MDMA.

Except it is not fake, not chemical, not illegal, and it doesn’t end in an horrendous come-down and with serious short and long-term side affects to your body, mind and soul.

The only side affects you might experience after regularly doing Bhakti yoga and kirtan is discovering a singing voice you didn’t know you had. And suddenly discovering you love everyone around you.

That has got to be a pretty amazing thing.

Swami Muktidharma, a Satyananda yogi, was at our house recently for a – yes, you guessed it – night of kirtan. He gave a few short talks in between the chanting, the gist of which was… (and I’m totally paraphrasing here, this ain’t no direct quote):

The easiest way for us Westerns to shift all that Mind-Gunk that’s standing in the way of living a joyful, loving, heart-open life is…

chanting.

Yup, in this age of Kali, chanting is the magic remedy we’ve all been waiting for.

Well, not all of us.

Some of us are already doing it… many of us in the yoga world.

But what about all those fine folk out there in the rest of the world who are missing our on the glory of Kirtan?

Don’t you think they deserve a little surreptitious heart-opening too?

Those are the people who would benefit most from a Kirtan song galloping up the charts to sit at number one for nine weeks.

Now I’m no musician, and I don’t know any chart-topping musicians either (not yet), but I thought if I put this idea out there… that someone with better contacts and more musical talent than me might just be able to take this idea and run with it.

Don’t you reckon it would rock?

A Number One smash hit Kirtan song on every radio station and everybody’s lips?

Way to open some hearts guys… way to open some hearts.

You got the idea.

Now run with it.

About Kara-Leah Grant

Kara-Leah Grant is the author of Forty Days of Yoga - Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice, and the publisher of New Zealand’s own awsome yoga website, The Yoga Lunchbox. A born & bred Kiwi who spent her twenties wandering the world and living large, Kara-Leah has spent time in Canada, the USA, France, England, Mexico, and a handful of other luscious locations. Now back at home, and playing solo mum to her young son, she loves to stop, drop and practice - breathing, moving and dancing.

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13 Responses to “Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan – It’s How Yogis Get High”

  1. Michael B says:

    Trevor Hall would be a great candidate for topping the charts…..

  2. Valerie says:

    I think Sting, who has been a yogi for many years and has a history of recording un-mainstream albums, would be a perfect candidate for a Kirtan CD. I think he could do a wonderful job of bring it mainstream while still keeping the mantras as the main focus. I just left a message on his FB page… you never know!

  3. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Love this.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  4. [...] Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan – It’s How Yogis Get High [...]

  5. DBSB says:

    Your article is so beautiful, uplifting, full of TRUTH and goodness!

    "And that got me wondering… what would happen if a mainstream artist recorded a best selling kirtan hit? Or a kirtan singer crossed over and had a major hit with Om Namah Shivaya or something similar?" … check out George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" … they chant Hare Krishna/Hallelujah throughout, and he released it as his single for his first Solo album, All things Must Pass!

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