My first Kirtana

A kirtana is a form of musical worship. It originated in Hinduism, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, and indeed, the songs that were sung and the chants that were chanted were to the gods of Hinduism.

In terms of content and style, the kirtana could be likened to many Christian worship services — there was song and dance, and one addition, yoga.

Yoga has a physical and spiritual aspect. The physical aspect is pure exercise. It’s a unique activity because it makes you both stronger and more flexible at the same time. Most physical activities, like hiking or swimming, tend to emphasize either strength or flexibility. Yoga, on the other hand, is superbly balanced.

The kirtana I experienced, my first, was an agreeable party of yoga, song, and dance. No alcohol either. Everything was au naturel.  It was more than agreeable, actually. It was fun and it left me with a contented feeling.

Earlier this month, I experienced my first kirtana. Here is its story.

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Girls dancing on yoga mats

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My first Kirtana was an evening of yoga followed by chanting, singing, and dancing.

KIRTANA IS AN OCCASION FOR SONG, DANCE, & YOGA

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Making music at a Kirtana at Bonifacio Global City

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Musicians at a Kirtana at Bonifacio Global City, Makati, Philippines

TWO ASPECTS OF YOGA

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Getting ready for yoga

I first tried yoga in 2008. It was one of several activities being offered at health clubs in the U.S. starting in the 1990s. My first time to try was in Chicago. My second time, in New York City. Both times, the yoga being taught and practiced was Hatha Yoga.

The word hatha means willful or forceful. It refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas or postures), and sequences of asanas, designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones. The postures are also designed to open the many channels of the body—especially the main channel, the spine—so that energy can flow freely. — See Hatha Yoga.

Both health clubs are typical for the U.S. so the yoga I learned was the type that was practiced in the mainstream.

It was here in the Philippines where I first encountered yoga studios and realized that yoga can be the doorway to more spiritual things — if I consciously and intentionally bring it there.

YOGA’S NO. 1 BENEFIT

Yoga’s benefits are many, but for me, its best is the peaceful mind you have after practicing. Yoga’s physical exertion brings about the release of endorphins in the brain. (Endorphins are the feel-good chemicals that make us, well, feel good.) Endorphins bring a general calm and feeling of well-being that, for me, constitutes a peaceful mind.

Having a peaceful mind, it follows, is also a good time to worship and rejoice. And that’s what Bhakti Yoga is about. It sets the stage and mood for worship.

Bhakti yoga is a spiritual form of yoga where yoga is purposefully used to deepen the meditation of the person performing the yoga poses to become more self-aware. The poses are the same but the mental focus while you’re performing individual poses is on worship. I focussed on compassion and gratitude, for instance.

“Bhakti is the yoga of a personal relationship with God,” says musician Jai Uttal, who learned the art of devotion from his guru, the late Neem Karoli Baba. At the heart of bhakti is surrender, says Uttal, who lives in California but travels the globe leading kirtans and chanting workshops. — See Bhakti Yoga.

It was a wonderful experience!

Acknowledgements:

  • Clarity West
  • Janaka Ordonez
  • Dona Tumacder-Esteban
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Yoga instructors Janaka and Dona at the Kirtana

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Dona stretching before getting on with instruction.

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Dona doing the Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana). The Boat Pose is incredibly tough. There’s an easier version of it called the Half-Boat and I can barely do that too.

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Not to be outdone, Janaka does the Boat Pose himself. About this pose, and you can bet on this — someone who can do this pose is in superb physical condition.

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David doing a basic yoga pose — Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Look at his fit body.

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David, now, doing the reverse — Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).

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Yogis doing the High Lunge (Crescent Variation).

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Johan doing a Forward Bend (Uttanasana).

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How the world looks like when you’re in Forward Bend (Uttanasana). :-)

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Bridge Pose (it has a long name: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) stretches the chest, neck, and spine. It helps calm the mind (by stimulating the brain) and in doing so, helps alleviate stress and mild depression. This pose stretches the abdominal cavity in such a way that it stimulates the abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid. Similarly, because of the way it stretches the legs, it rejuvenates the little muscles of the legs. See Bridge Pose.

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Yogis taking a break in a resting pose called Child’s Pose (Balasana). Male practitioners are called yogis; females are called yoginis. This pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. Being prostrate brings more blood to the head and calms the brain. It also relieves any back and neck pain when it’s done with the head and torso supported. See Child’s Pose.

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Clarity doing the Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana).

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Easy Pose (Sukhasana) calms the mind, stretches the knees and ankles, and strengthens the back.

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Lexie in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with Hands in Prayer

And finally, some kid shots:

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The Shadow Doggy Pose :-)

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Girl dancing during the Kirtana at Bonifacio Global City

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Girls dancing at a Kirtana at Bonifacio Global City

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Three boys reacting to the Kirtana!