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.
KIRTANA IS AN OCCASION FOR SONG, DANCE, & YOGA
TWO ASPECTS OF 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!
- Clarity West
- Janaka Ordonez
- Dona Tumacder-Esteban
And finally, some kid shots: