Overview of Kirtan Chanting

Kirtan Audience at a Krishna Das and Ram Das Concert, 1999. Hiroyuki Ito/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Kirtan is group chanting of mantras and songs, based on Indian devotional music. Some yoga classes include a little bit of chanting but stand-alone kirtan events are becoming more popular. Chanting with a group is one of the ways that yoga builds community. Each person's voice makes a contribution to build something beautiful. You don't have to be a great singer to enjoy chanting. Some of today's most popular kirtan singers are Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, and Sean Johnson, who are all American born and bring their diverse musical backgrounds to chanting.

Krishna Das (born Jeffrey Kagal) was a rock musician and played in the band that became Blue Oyster Cult.

When I first started doing yoga, I was frankly appalled that I was going to be asked to sing in addition to twisting my body up like a pretzel. I found it uncomfortable and embarrassing. I may even have sat silently through a few chanting sessions. Somewhere along the way, I figured out that no one can hear you sing when they are singing. There is no audience when everyone is participating. All the sounds in the room become one and you can't even tell your own voice from those around it, making it possible for even the most self-conscious people to sing out loud. Research has also shown that sound vibrations are beneficial mentally and physically. So the next time you have the opportunity to do kirtan, come with an open mind. You may even find it more powerful than an asana practice.

Pronunciation: KEER-taan

Examples: I'm going to kirtan at the yoga studio because I love to chant.

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