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An Introduction to Kirtan and its Benefits

  • by Julie Preston - Aug 25, 2022

We asked Julie Preston to write a short article about kirtan to help you discover, and benefit from, this ancient art.

KIRTAN

Kirtan, the art of chanting mantras to music, is from the Bhakti path of yoga - a means to reconnecting with your truest essential nature that the ancient yogis say is one of peace, love, joy, steadiness and bliss.

In this way, Kirtan can be seen as a practice that brings you back into connection with yourself, and others, in a more loving way. It offers the mind an experience of pure meditation without having to sit still or be quiet! It helps calm the mind, open the heart, and regulate the nervous system, bringing your whole self into harmony and balance.

What’s a Mantra?

The traditional science of Yoga was ‘downloaded’ thousands of years ago by the ancient yogis in Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages still in use, which is also at the root of many of our modern languages. Its alphabet is based on sound frequency, and it has many more ‘letters’ than ours, with each symbol and word containing its own unique blueprint of sound energy that creates a specific effect. Mantras are formed from these energetic sounds – the meaning of the word is the sound it makes.

The word MANTRA can be split into two Sanskrit roots – MAN (from Manas) which can mean MIND STUFF, and TRA which can mean to free, to go beyond, to transcend. You can think of mantras as sacred sound formulas that have a specific focus, energy and effect on the body, mind, emotions and Soul which become free from the constant chatter of the mind

Mantra meditation has been used for thousands of years to bring humans to an enlightened state of one-ness or pure awareness. The repetition of mantras is what unlocks their potency for our inner transformation. Japa meditation is the repetition of mantras as a route to the state of yoga, and can be spoken out loud, repeated mentally, written down or even sung.

In the practice of Kirtan, we sing the mantras to music, which naturally allows for consistent repetition of the sounds, helping us to quieten our minds and open our hearts into being fully present while we get caught up in the music.


Kirtan’s origins & evolution

Kirtan was originally a folk form of mantra chanting that arose out of the Bhakti movement in India during the 15th century. The Bhaktas were the rebels of their day, with a simple message to cultivate ecstasy and joy as a means of divine expression without dogma, that was open to all people irrespective of their caste or religion. They took the ancient mantras out of the temples and into the streets and communities as a means of encouraging connection and the reminder that we’re all one.

As Kirtan spread throughout the world, its modern day Western expression has moved far beyond the culture of India, and has evolved to be influenced by many forms of music including rap, jazz, bluegrass, rock, electronica, gospel and more, but its basis is the same – an offering of the heart, and a way to deepen our connection through the singing of mantras to music.

Who’s it for?

The wonderful thing about Kirtan as a yogic practice is that absolutely everyone can take part. If you can breathe, and have your vocal chords, you can enjoy the myriad benefits it has to offer. There are no beginners, and no experts – the experience of the practice is the teacher, guiding us towards ourselves. It’s an exploration of the heart that is independent of any vocal skill, musical ability or previous experience.

What are the benefits?

Everyone experiences each kirtan individually but there are many noted benefits including:

  • Relieve stress and anxiety. Chanting has been proven as one of the most effective ways to stimulate the vagus nerve which makes up around 75% of your parasympathetic nervous system - your rest, digest and relax mode.
  • A tangible feeling of connection and community. There’s something very special happens when chanting mantras in a group setting that leads to us feeling part of something bigger than our individual selves, a sense of heartfelt connection to those we’re experiencing the practice with, even though they may be strangers to us.
  • Quieten a busy mind. The repetition of the mantras and music, combined with longer outbreaths that happen naturally as we sing, bring the mind to a quiet state of steadiness and relaxation.
  • Create hormonal and neurological changes that bring about feel-good experiences that both calm, and uplift body and mind simultaneously.
  • A safe container for healthy emotional release, and expression We often supress emotions that become entwined in the body and mind. The practice of Kirtan creates positive sound vibrations that can open up space around the throat and heart chakras for healthy release and expression, offering great freedom.
  • Enhanced sleep quality Many participants at our events report back that they sleep very deeply and soundly following a group kirtan experience.
  • Become more loving and compassionate towards yourself and others The feelings of joy, bliss and love that can arise as part of the practice remind us that at a Soul level, we are pure love, and we are all connected in our humanity.

George Harrison famously said

“ The response that comes from chanting is pure bliss, spiritual happiness, which is a higher taste than any happiness found in the material world. The more you do it, you don’t want to stop because it feels so nice and peaceful”

Why not give it a go? Come and join Julie & Vic at their monthly Sunday Evening Kirtan circles at Maitri studio

Upcoming dates are: 11 Sept ; 9 October ; 13 November ; 11 December

Booking via the Maitri website events page - click on the dates above to get to the relevant page.


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Husband and wife duo, Julie Preston & Victor Tyrrell, have been sharing Kirtan in Northern Ireland, and at international retreats and events since 2011. They met through Kirtan – it’s their love song to each other, and an important heart and soul practice for them. They even sang Kirtan at their wedding, and spent their honeymoon studying with Grammy-nominated Kirtan artist, Jai Uttal.

Julie is also a Senior Yoga Teacher & Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist, teaching since 2007 and a Holistic Health & Life Coach with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Vic is a practicing bio energy therapist since 2005.

You can find out more about their story here.

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Email: info@maitristudio.net

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