Kirtan is a meditation practice set to music. Yoga classes usually include music, either recorded or ‘live.’ When we meditate before our shrines, we might incorporate some gentle sounds to help clear background distractions. However, we likely won’t be trying to meditate while playing raunchy hip-hop or Led Zeppelin, nor should we practice yoga while listening to hard-hitting genres, as they tend to distract our attention rather than focusing our practice. I tend to agree with author Binazir regarding music at yoga classes. In the same manner, I’m not a fan of teachers cracking glib jokes during yoga classes. When someone is in a challenging, balancing posture and a joke is made, laughter is an enormous distraction that can potentially result in injury.
We are surrounded by music. Every media source incorporates music: even print, by suggesting music through dance-like body postures. Listen to the music used in movies, TV shows, advertising, etc. It is so routinely incorporated that it almost is unnoticed, is subliminal. It’s intent is to affect us emotionally and to get us to act on those emotions. In certain examples music might be used intentionally for evil.
Music is a vital, necessary part of our being. Our very first sounds are ‘cries of joy’ at entering a new experience. Interestingly, the first sounds purported to be ‘song’ is said to have originated by man imitating the sounds of nature. In fact, the human voice was likely the first of man’s ‘instruments.’
And there’s a concept called Motherese, whereby a gestating mother communicates sounds (vocally) and other vibrations (kinesthetically) to the fetus, who after the 20th gestational week is capable of hearing and feeling these vibration AND remembering the vibrational patterns. This helps in the development of language and higher cognitive functions.
Music gets a pretty mundane place in our modern world. We’re so used to carrying music around with us on our little devices. We have music at our fingertips. We can put a thousand songs on a device no bigger than a postage stamp. Music is relegated to mere background noise to block out the irrelevant clutter of input and stimulus, but also to camouflage our heart’s yearning for something deeper, hence the propensity for discordant lyrics.
Music, for thousands of years was solely a performance art. There was no ‘recording,’ save for the record impressed upon the heart. Only within the last hundred years has music evolved into a canned art form. Families of old would gather in the evening around the fireplace and sing together. There was no TV, no radio, no other opportunities for ‘entertainment.’ And in some cultures, music was principally relegated to spiritual, existential thought, hence Kirtan, a gift celebrating existence.
Kirtan is one of the only events where individuals can walk in the door and sing. It’s an open invitation. There is no audition, no preconceived requirements. One simply shows up. And by its design the practice intends to provide a vehicle by which one can elevate their soul to the highest of heights. Singing, dancing, coupled with pure, soulful thoughts can fundamentally change the way we see the world and our place in it. And that is its purpose. To allow our true nature to grow, upwell and become again. Your becoming benefits the world.
Our Kirtan offerings include two CDs and our regular practice every Thursday evening at 8:30pm in Normal Heights. Sing, dance and make new friends. And please note: There will be NO KIRTAN on Nov. 24th (Thanksgiving).
See the schedule to find Kirtan, meditation, pranayama and mindfulness classes offered at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio. And be sure to check out Pilgrimage Yoga Online, our huge community resource.